Causes and Treatment of Most Common Teeth Stains

Dark, discolored, and stained teeth can detract from your self-confidence. They can also make your smile seem older than it really is. The first step toward brightening your teeth is to understand what’s causing the discoloration in the first place. By combining a preventative approach with professional whitening treatments, you can achieve the brightest white possible! 

Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Stain

There are two types of dental stain. Extrinsic, which is external and on the surface of teeth, and intrinsic, which is internal and related to the tooth’s structure. Extrinsic stains are easier to remove during cleanings or prevent through home care. But intrinsic stains have to be treated by a dentist.

Genetics and Tooth Anatomy

As adult teeth start to erupt alongside of primary (baby) teeth, they typically look more yellow in color. That’s because underneath their enamel is a dense layer of “dentin.” Dentin is naturally more yellow than tooth enamel is. And since you don’t see that same hue in baby teeth, the permanent teeth tend to look darker than they should. Fortunately, it’s less noticeable once all of the adult teeth have erupted. But you still might notice certain teeth with a darker color, especially your canines (eye teeth) because of their dense design.

Foods and Drinks

Darker types of foods and beverages are more apt to cause stain buildup on your teeth. Common offenders are curries, berries, tomato sauces, tea, coffee, soda, and red wine. Basically, anything that could stain a white t-shirt is capable of contributing to tooth discoloration. The more frequently you eat or sip on it, the higher the chances will be that you get stain on your teeth. 

Tobacco Products

Everything from cigar smoke and cigarettes to smokeless tobacco and pipes can cause tobacco stain residue on your enamel. Unfortunately, it’s also quite challenging to clean off during your checkup. Tobacco stain is one of those that can occur both on the surface of your tooth as well as soak into the pores, contributing to intrinsic stain.


Traumatic Injuries and Tooth Death

When a tooth is seriously injured, it may not start to die right away. It can actually be a decade or more until you start to see the side-effects of tooth and nerve death. Then again, it might happen within a few months of your traumatic event. If you’re involved in an athletic injury or car accident, you’ll want to have us check your tooth routinely.

The earliest signs of tooth death usually present themselves as overall discoloration or staining to one specific tooth. Generally, the enamel will appear more grey or brown than the teeth adjacent to it. Endodontic therapy and internal tooth bleaching may be the best treatment.


Certain types of medications can cause either intrinsic or extrinsic tooth stain. Chlorhexidine rinse or certain supplements may cause brown or black stain that can be polished off during dental cleanings. On the other hand, tetracycline antibiotics can lead to permanent discoloration in developing teeth. Always take medication as directed and be sure to let your doctor or dentist know if you’re pregnant.

Environmental Factors

Where you live and what your recreational activities look like can impact how white your teeth are. For instance, people who lap swim on a weekly basis may notice more stain on their teeth due to the chlorine in the pool. If your main source of drinking water comes from a well, excessive mineral levels (particularly fluoride) can also change the way your child’s teeth develop, leading to long-term tooth discoloration. 

Dental Cleaning and Polish

During your six-month dental cleanings, we’ll lift away calcified tartar buildup and then polish off the superficial extrinsic stain. Polishing is safe when performed by a professional, but you want to be sure to avoid using abrasives at home.

Whitening Toothpaste

Over the counter whitening toothpaste (and rinses) may not quite brighten your smile, but they can be an effective step in preventing new stain buildup. When used alongside of a daily brushing and flossing routine, these whitening agents can help keep your smile brighter between dental checkups.

Professional Whitening

The most effective way to dramatically brighten your teeth is to have them professionally whitened. A take-home or in-office whitening treatment can lift years of stain and discoloration, making your smile look brighter and healthier than it ever has.

Get a Brighter Smile in Mesa

Eastport Dental offers comprehensive dentistry and teeth whitening treatments in Mesa. Are you ready for a brighter smile? Call us today!

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