Causes of teeth discoloration and how it is treated

Causes of teeth discoloration and how it is treated
Published : March 02 , 2019
Latest Update : June 20 , 2021
Dr. Diala Ghalayini is a Conservative (Restorative) Dentistry Specialist, who holds the Jordanian Board in Conservative Dentistry, and the Membership of the... more

A smile is an asset, and it’s essential to make a lasting first impression, which can affect our social and professional lives. And at any age a smile remains attractive. That’s why we search for ways to make our smiles more attractive, to correct the flaws and minor imperfections we see. Some studies even link attractive smiles to more confident, more successful people.

The color of our teeth can be a main concern. Everyone dreams of a whiter brighter smile. Yellow teeth or discolored teeth to be more general, is a common problem among adults and even children. Some people feel self-conscious about the color of their teeth.

It helps to know the causes of discoloration to choose the most suitable treatment. Tooth discoloration is classified into: extrinsic (external), intrinsic (internal), and a combination of both.

1. Extrinsic stains (External stains)

These stains can develop as a result of some extrinsic (external) agents located on the outer surface of teeth.

Their causes:

  • Poor oral hygiene

  • Diet: excessive consumption of coffee, tea, and other food and drinks

  • Smoking

  • Certain drugs: like antibiotics, certain mouthwashes containing antiseptic agents such as chlorhexidine, iron-containing drugs, used for long periods of time


  • Proper brushing of your teeth, and professional cleaning at the dentist

  • Decrease consumption of stain-causing food and beverages,

  • Use a straw

  • Chew gum

  • Brush your teeth after consumption of stain- causing food and beverages

  • Quit smoking

2. Intrinsic stains (Internal stains)

These stains can develop as a result of the incorporation of pigmented (stained) materials into the structure of teeth.

Their causes:

  • Consumption of certain drugs like tetracycline especially in children and pregnant women in the formation years of the teeth[lm1]  so the stains get incorporated in the structure of the teeth.

  • Inherited developmental defects, defects in the structure of teeth.

  • Trauma to the teeth, which causes necrosis of the pulp. Death of the live part of the tooth which has the nerves and the vessels.

  • Excessive fluoride consumption: especially at a young age, in children while their permanent teeth are forming


  • Microabrasion:

    This procedure is done by the dentist to remove thin layers of tooth enamel, thus removing superficial stains.
  • Construction of dental veneers:

    That are custom-made shell like structures constructed in a dental lab from a special materials to fit prepared teeth, or sometimes dental veneers can be directly constructed in the clinic from the same material as tooth colored fillings.
  • Bleaching of teeth.

    it is a procedure performed on normal teeth to gain 1-2 shades lighter teeth, and this can be done via:
    • Bleaching at the clinic.
      is done by isolating the gums, applying the bleaching gel on the teeth. Increased effect can be achieved by using heat or bluelight. Bleaching products provided by the dentist deliver higher concentration of the bleaching material. And it doesn’t affect the hardness of teeth or make them weaker or more prone to caries.
    • Bleaching at home.
      by using custom-made trays constructed in the clinic, bleaching gel is given to the patient by the dentist along with the instructions on how to use it.
    • Over the counter bleaching products:
       to be used by the patient according to the manufacturer’s instructions, those productions most likely deliver smaller concentrations than the ones used by the dentist.

Risks commonly reported with tooth whitening include increased tooth sensitivity and mild gingival irritation. The degree of these side effects is related to the concentration of the whitening component, duration of the treatment. Tooth sensitivity and gingival irritation usually occurs at the time of treatment and can last several days but it is temporary.

Visiting a dentist and deciding what is most suitable for you is essential. None of those treatments can be applied to all cases.


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