Stains on teeth: what they are, the different types, causes, and treatments

24 August · 5 minutes

A captivating smile can light up a room and leave a lasting impression, but what happens when the natural brilliance of your teeth starts to fade? Teeth discoloration, a common and often concerning issue, can cast a shadow over your confidence and self-esteem. In this blog post, we delve into the world of teeth discoloration, peeling back the layers to understand its various forms, causes, and potential treatments.

Whether you're an avid coffee lover, a fan of red wine, or simply curious about maintaining a radiant smile, join us as we explore the factors contributing to teeth discoloration and unveil the secrets to restoring your pearly whites.

What is tooth staining?

Discolored teeth, also known as stains on teeth, is the alteration in the color of your teeth, leading to a yellowed or less radiant appearance. Moreover, teeth might display white or dark spots due to tooth staining. This phenomenon can be attributed to factors such as tobacco consumption, dental injuries, inadequate oral care, as well as the consumption of specific foods, beverages, and medications, thereby causing stains on teeth.

A person’s smile with stains on the left and unstained teeth on the right.

Stained teeth and tooth discoloration causes

Wondering why your teeth are stained? There are a spectrum of factors that contribute to stains on teeth, with some triggers falling within our control and others beyond our influence.

Avoidable stained teeth causes

Dark-colored Foods and Beverages: The allure of coffee, tea, berries, red wine, and soy sauce is undeniable, yet their penchant for staining teeth over time is a trade-off to consider.

  • Smoking and Tobacco Use: The indelible marks of teeth discoloration are notably more prevalent among those who partake in smoking and tobacco consumption, as evidenced by extensive research.
  • Lax Oral Hygiene Practices: The battle against teeth stains hinges on your oral care routine. Neglecting proper brushing and flossing allows stains to latch onto dental plaque, eventually leading to teeth discoloration.
  • Excessive Fluoride Exposure: While fluoride guards against cavities, excessive exposure during childhood can lead to fluorosis, characterized by white spots on tooth enamel.

Unavoidable causes of tooth discoloration

  • Genetic Diversity: Nature crafts every smile uniquely. The innate hue, brightness, and translucency of teeth vary among individuals due to genetics.
  • Dental Trauma: Unforeseen accidents, such as falls, vehicular mishaps, or sports-related injuries, can introduce trauma that causes teeth staining.
  • The Passage of Time: The aging process unveils a natural transformation. Thinning tooth enamel reveals the yellowish dentin underneath, lending a slightly darker appearance to aging teeth.
  • Dental Procedures: Some dental materials, like silver amalgam used in fillings, can cast a grayish shadow on teeth. Additionally, teeth staining of the tooth's surface alongside the tooth-colored fillings can stain post-root canal therapy.
  • Health Conditions: Certain diseases, ranging from liver conditions to eating disorders, can cause teeth discoloration, manifesting as a reflection of underlying health.
  • Medication Effects: Some medications, notably specific antihistamines and hypertension drugs, are accomplices in teeth discoloration. Childhood exposure to antibiotics like tetracycline or doxycycline can also leave lasting marks.
  • Cancer Treatment Impacts: The rigorous battle against cancer, including chemotherapy and head-neck radiation therapy, can unintentionally cause tooth discoloration as a side effect due to decreased saliva production.

In the pursuit of preserving and restoring the brilliance of our smiles, understanding the array of causes that orchestrate tooth discoloration is the first step toward informed oral care decisions.

Why do my teeth stain so easily?

If you’re wondering why your teeth stain so easily, we have the answers. For some people, teeth stain more easily than others due to their porous enamel, which can absorb pigments from foods, drinks, and tobacco. Additionally, acidity, tobacco use, inadequate oral hygiene, and genetics can lead to easily stained teeth.

Different types of teeth staining

When we think of our smiles, we often envision bright, pristine teeth. However, the reality is that teeth can fall victim to different types of discoloration.

Understanding the types of teeth stains is key to maintaining that radiant smile. There are two primary types of teeth stains: extrinsic and intrinsic. These stains originate from distinct sources and pose unique challenges in prevention and treatment. Let's delve into extrinsic and intrinsic teeth stains to unravel the science behind their formation and discover effective strategies to combat their effects.

Extrinsic teeth stains

Extrinsic teeth stains pertain to the outer layer of your teeth (enamel). It occurs when your teeth are exposed to specific environmental elements, such as certain foods and beverages, leading to external staining.

Intrinsic teeth stains

Intrinsic teeth stains are initiated within your tooth, impacting the dentin layer beneath the enamel. This type of teeth stain is triggered by factors such as dental trauma and specific medications.

Different teeth staining color meaning

Sometimes the color of tooth stains and discolored teeth can help pinpoint the culprit of the stains on teeth. We will now describe the most frequent causes and implications of the different types of dental stains according to their color.

Yellow stains on teeth

Typically, yellow stains on teeth arise from consuming dark-hued foods and drinks‚ÄĒlike coffee, tea, curry, and soy sauce. This shade could also signal a need for enhanced oral hygiene practices.

Brown stains on teeth

Brown stains on teeth stems from tobacco use, including smoking and chewing tobacco. Presence of brown stains coupled with pitting, characterized by small cavities, often indicates untreated tooth decay.

Purple stains on teeth

Wondering what causes purple stains on teeth? Purple teeth stains tend to be caused in individuals who consume substantial amounts of red wine, excess consumption of some types of berries, and other fruits such as pomegranates. Additionally, this color can appear on teeth when slight internal bleeding is caused by trauma.

Gray stains on teeth

Gray stains on your teeth might indicate nerve damage within the tooth, often resulting from dental trauma. This type of discoloration can be concerning, but consulting a dentist for a thorough evaluation and personalized treatment plan is essential to address the underlying issues and restore the health and appearance of your teeth.

White stains on teeth

The presence of white stains on your teeth could point to dental fluorosis, which arises from elevated fluoride intake during childhood while your teeth were forming. While these stains might be visually concerning, it's important to note that they usually pose no significant health risk

Black stains on teeth

Black stains or spots on teeth generally signify significant decay in those areas. This type of discoloration is a visible indicator of advanced tooth deterioration, which can compromise the structural integrity of the tooth and potentially lead to more severe dental issues if left untreated.

How to prevent teeth stains and discoloration

While it's challenging to prevent profound teeth stains and discoloration resulting from trauma, medications, or health issues, you can take measures to minimize the likelihood of everyday surface tooth discoloration:

  • Brush your teeth gently two to three times daily with ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush.
  • Floss once a day to clean between your teeth.
  • Restrict consumption of teeth-staining substances such as coffee, tea, cola, and red wine.
  • Stay hydrated and rinse your mouth after consuming beverages that might cause tooth discoloration.
  • Quit smoking to reduce the risk of stains.
  • Maintain regular dental check-ups and cleanings with your dentist.

How to remove and get rid of stains on teeth

Wondering how to fix stained teeth? Restoring the natural brilliance of stained teeth involves a combination of preventive measures and professional interventions. Consulting a dentist is crucial to determine the most suitable approach for addressing stained teeth based on individual needs and the underlying causes of discoloration

How to get rid of intrinsic stains on teeth

In cases of severe tooth discoloration, the usual methods may not work, so the only possibility is to resort to procedures that cover the stain. Cosmetic dental procedures like veneers or bonding might be considered, providing a comprehensive solution to achieve a vibrant, confident smile. These types of measures are taken for teeth that have been subjected to trauma or special conditions where alternative treatments could not possibly remove the stain.

How to get rid of extrinsic stains on teeth

Most stains on teeth are superficial and can be removed using much simpler and less expensive methods. Here are a few tips for how to remove and get rid of stains on teeth:

Improving oral care

Sometimes, it is simply a matter of improving technique or increasing the frequency of oral hygiene. Regular oral care, including brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing, aids in preventing surface discoloration.

Limiting consumption of substances that stain teeth

Basically, this consists of limiting the consumption of foods that stain teeth, such as highly colored beverages, and reducing or eliminating substances, such as tobacco. This, together with better oral hygiene, can help some superficial stains to disappear gradually.

Whitening for stained teeth

Stained teeth can also be whitened to restore their natural appearance. There are different techniques for whitening teeth, however, professional teeth whitening is the best way to whiten teeth.

Stained teeth can often be effectively whitened with professional teeth whitening. Surface teeth stains caused by factors like food, drinks, and tobacco use can generally be addressed through professional teeth whitening procedures. These treatments utilize bleaching agents to remove stains and restore the natural color of teeth.

Doctor showing a tablet to a patient in a Impress clinic. 

Whiten your smile with Impress

At Impress, we offer full-service professional teeth whitening for stained teeth. We use Opalessence Boost, an innovative and clinically proven treatment, which yields fast, visible results. In just 75 minutes, your smile will be brighter and whiter, with results that will last 3-6 months. Our patients see immediate smile results!

Interested in learning more? We recommend booking an appointment for professional teeth whitening with one of our licensed doctors, who will determine the appropriate whitening approach based on your type and severity of staining.

Need more assistance? Feel free to reach out to us via email or call us.

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