What Causes Teeth Stains?

What Causes Teeth Stains?

Teeth Stains, also commonly referred to as Teeth Discoloration, is caused by substances sticking onto the surface of your tooth or gathering within and contaminating the enamel of your tooth.

Types of Teeth Stains

The two main types of teeth stains are intrinsic teeth stains and extrinsic teeth stains.

Intrinsic teeth stains: Discoloration of the teeth which occurs when particles which stain the teeth invade and collect within the enamel of the tooth.  The tooth is stained internally, and often appear in shades of yellow, pink, or red.

Extrinsic teeth stains: Discoloration of the teeth which occurs when particles stain the tooth surface, particularly when the particles build-up within the small dents, crevices, and cracks on the surface of the tooth. This type of stain often appears in shades of brown, black and grey colors, although they can also appear in other shades as well.

What Causes Teeth to Stain?

There are many ways in which your teeth can be stained:

  • Pigmented substances – Your teeth are naturally white, therefore any foods and drinks that have colored pigment has the potential to stain your teeth. Foods and drinks with a more intense colored pigment (typically darker colors) are more likely to stain your teeth.
  • Acidic substances – Although acidic substances may not be pigmented and therefore won’t directly stain your teeth, they erode and soften the enamel of your teeth, making it easier for other substances to stain your teeth.
  • Certain Drinks Coffee, tea, wine, and soft drinks  contain substances called chromogens and tannins, which easily stain your teeth. You should eliminate or reduce these types of drinks from your diet.
  • Tobacco – Both chewing and smoking tobacco cause teeth stains. Tobacco contains two substances which stain your teeth: Nicotine and Tar. Nicotine is a colorless substance, but when it mixes with oxygen it becomes yellowish, causing your teeth to be stained yellow. Tar, which is a dark substance that naturally occurs with tobacco use, causes dark spots on your teeth. Stained teeth among tobacco users is very common. The only way to prevent tobacco-related teeth stains is to quit smoking.
  • Genetics – Your genetic makeup can determine how susceptible you are to having your teeth stained. Some people have naturally discolored teeth due to genetics. There are also people who have a thinner enamel, making their teeth more prone to being stained by substances.
  •  Certain Medications – Some medications can lead to teeth stains as a side-effect. Avoid excessive use of fluoride, and/or medications which contain Tetracycline and Doxycycline, which has been associated with intrinsic teeth stains, especially in children.
  • Poor hygiene – Poor oral hygiene habits can lead to teeth stains because if you don’t properly brush and floss your teeth, residues can easily build up and stain your teeth.
  • Dental Restorations – If a dental restoration procedure (such as a crown, veneer, etc.) is not done properly, it can cause teeth stains.
  • Trauma – If a tooth is chipped or broken this can damage the tooth enamel or destroy the tooth nerve, leading to teeth staining over time. If you have a few teeth that darkened while the rest of your teeth appear normal, then your teeth stains may be due to trauma.
  • Aging – As you age the outer layer of your teeth, the tooth enamel, will erode away, leaving the inner layer called the Dentin, which is more yellow in color. This will make your teeth appear to have yellow teeth stains.


How can I Treat Teeth Stains?

You can look for whitening or teeth stain removal products on the market.  Teeth restorations can be done to conceal teeth stains, especially teeth stains due to tooth decay. Speak to your dentist to figure out what options are best for you.

For more information on whitening products to help whiten your teeth, check out our article:

How can I keep my teeth white?

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