Stained Teeth: Causes, Types, Treatment & Prevention


Tooth discoloration or stained teeth is more common than you might think it is. However, it is not what you think it is. Our teeth are not pure white but they aren’t yellow either. They become so after being constantly exposed to factors that weather them down. Discoloration in simple words could mean the disappearance of natural color from teeth. If it has been a while, you might need more than just good brushing and flossing. This article will talk in detail about stained teeth, their causes, and their types. We will also be looking closely at its treatment and prevention to help you deal with it.

Causes of stained teeth

Stained teeth could have multiple causes that could be due to your activity or accidents. It doesn’t mean that it can cause the same results in everyone but most people are known to be affected by these.

The major causes of stains on teeth are-

Causes of stained teeth

  1. Food and beverages– Eating certain kinds of food in bulk could leave stains on the teeth. This includes sodas, coffees, or teas which leave their remnants on them.
  2. Tobacco– Smoking or consuming tobacco can cause nicotine marks to be left on teeth which are not easy to remove. 
  3. Poor dental hygiene– Inadequate brushing or flossing could lead to a build-up of plaque on the teeth and leave permanent marks on them. Moreover, it can also cause tooth cavities.
  4. Certain medications– Tetracycline Antibiotics are taken by some people to alleviate certain conditions but they are known to leave marks on them.
  5. Dental Trauma– Accidents can cause intrinsic stains as they could cause breakage of teeth. 
  6. Aging– People age and as they age, their teeth can be stained over time.
  7. Genetics– Contrary to popular belief, genetics also has a hand to play in deciding the color of your teeth. If you have a family history of darker teeth chances are you might also have that quality.
  8. Medical conditions– Some medical conditions could damage many other organs and well. This is common with ailments like cancer whose treatment may include chemotherapy. But chemotherapy can also cause severe staining on teeth.

Types of stained teeth

There are two types of stained teeth including-

Extrinsic Stains

As the name suggests these are stains that occur on the tooth enamel.  Moreover, the cause of these can be traced back to external factors. It could be further divided into two including surface stains and tobacco stains. While the surface stains are caused by eating food and beverages and could match the color of what you eat, the tobacco stains are due to nicotine and leave dark brown or yellow stains thanks to the smoke passing through the mouth.

Intrinsic Stains

Intrinsic stains occur within the inner structure of the tooth and are often caused by internal problems. Firstly, dental trauma stains can lead to the breakage of the tooth. When the tooth breaks off, it often leads to discoloration of the enamel leading to blackening or chipping. Moreover, discoloration due to medication stains also comes under this umbrella. This is because some medicines get embedded in the tooth structure and carve it from the inside out. Additionally, genetic predisposition gives some people teeth that are milder than others. Aging could lead to the revelation of the yellow color of enamel. Lastly,  teeth that have excessive fluoride in them can be brown due to fluorosis.

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Treatment and prevention of stained teeth

 Treating the discoloration of teeth can be done in the following ways-

1. Professional dental cleaning

First, the dentist will examine the teeth’ structure professionally and then remove the tartar and plaque accumulated on it. This procedure is done using special tools that can be modified to reach the crevices. Next, the teeth are polished using chemical toothpaste and an electric brush to remove all the sticky substances. Though flossing is optional, some dentists could also go with fluoride treatment to prevent the teeth from accumulating in the future.

2. Teeth whitening

It includes using whitening toothpastes, strips, and gels that can be used on your own. Professional teeth whitening steps could be a little more complicated as they use stronger agents to remove tougher stains.

3. Dental bonding and veneers

This is used to treat intrinsic stains caused by broken teeth. The strong bonds are used to stick on artificial parts of the tooth.

4. Crowns and inlays

These are used when the damage is severe or the tooth has a big cavity. Crowns and inlays can work as the cover on them.

Preventing the staining includes not only cleaning it regularly but also flossing. Firstly, you should maintain good hygiene which is extremely important. Secondly, you need to control what you eat and drink. It means giving up coffee, tea, and sodas which could not only stick sugar but also are known to cause stains. Thirdly, you might need to make some lifestyle changes which include limiting smoking, drinking, or any other substances. Additionally, you should also regularly go for professional cleanups and address the stains. Finally, minimize contact with staining liquids and use a mouthguard while doing activities that might cause damage to the teeth. So if you are someone who plays contact sports you might want to protect it with all your might.

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Looking at stained teeth from a cosmetic perspective is not our only aim. Stained teeth can also be a matter of confidence for a lot of people. Unknown to them, their actions can cause severe discoloration of their teeth. It could be as simple as drinking a coffee or something as serious as smoking tobacco. Chewing tobacco products could also bring about the same results. However if the causes are due to medications, you might want to talk to your doctor and look for a change of dosage and medicine if it doesn’t work. Submitting your teeth to whitening and cleaning can also help you relieve the stress. Your dental care habits should be similar to none.  


  1. França-Pinto C. C., Cenci M. S., Correa M. B., et al. Association between black stains and dental caries in primary teeth: findings from a Brazilian population-based birth cohort. Caries Research. 2012;46(2):170–176. doi: 10.1159/000337280. [PMC free article]
  2. Slots J. The microflora of black stain on human primary teeth. Scandinavian Journal of Dental Research. 1974;82(7):484–490. [PubMed]
  3. Hattab F. N., Qudeimat M. A., Al-Rimawi H. S. Dental discoloration: an overview. Journal of Esthetic Dentistry. 1999;11(6):291–310. doi: 10.1111/j.1708-8240.1999.tb00413.x.  [CrossRef]

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Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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