tooth discoloration

The Common Causes of Tooth Discoloration (and What to Do About It!)

99.7% of Americans believe a smile is an important social asset. 96% believe it makes you more attractive to the opposite sex and 74% believe it affects your chances of career success.

Discolored, yellow, or stained teeth are the most common factor that makes a smile unattractive. This is why whiter teeth were the most desired improvement.

If you’re one of the many who want a whiter smile, there are several options available to you. Read on to learn the causes of tooth discoloration and the treatments and lifestyle changes that can help combat it.

Causes of Tooth Discoloration

Part of the reason that tooth discoloration is so common is that it has several causes, some of which you may not be aware of.

Aging, poor dental hygiene, and tobacco are known to harm your oral health. What you may not realize is the impact that diet, previous trauma, medications, and certain illnesses can have on your smile.

Aging and Genetics

The outer layer of your teeth’s enamel naturally wears away as you age. This reveals the dentin underneath which tends to be yellower and darker. You may also be genetically predisposed to faster tooth discoloration if it runs in your family.

Dental Hygiene 

Brushing and flossing removes plaque and food stains from your teeth. Failing to do so for even a few days can cause them to build up and lead to tooth discoloration.


Several foods and drinks fit under the category of “things that stain your teeth,” including:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Cola and other sodas
  • Beets
  • Berries and berry juice
  • Wine
  • Apples
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Soy and tomato sauce

Try to cut down on anything that leaves a mark on your hands or clothes because it can also leave a mark on your teeth.

Tobacco Use

28% of smokers have moderate or severe levels of tooth discoloration compared to 15% for non-smokers. 

The chemicals in tobacco stain your teeth and cause them to yellow. They also put you at higher risk for oral conditions such as gum disease and oral cancer.

Diseases and Illnesses

Any disease that affects your enamel or the dentin underneath can cause tooth discoloration. This includes:

  • Metabolic diseases
  • Calcium deficiency
  • Liver disease
  • Rickets
  • Eating disorders
  • Celiac disease

Certain medical treatments may also cause tooth discoloration, such as head and neck radiation or chemotherapy. 

Medications and Dental Treatments

Developing children 8 years old or younger may experience teeth discoloration if they’re given certain antibiotics such as tetracycline or doxycycline.

Other medications may cause a similar effect in adults. These include antihistamines, antipsychotic drugs, and high blood pressure.

You’ll also have to be careful about what types of dental products you use. Avoid mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine or cetylpyridinium chloride. Don’t use too much fluoride to avoid the white spots caused by fluorosis. 


Any sort of trauma to your teeth can change their color. This includes damage from a fall, sports injuries, chips, and more.

These traumas wear away the enamel. They’re more common in children but can affect adults as well.

One of the best ways to determine the cause of your tooth discoloration is to look at what color your teeth are now.

Yellow indicates age-related discoloration. Brown or purple indicates stains from tobacco or food or beverages. White spots are signs of a condition caused by fluorosis. Black teeth have usually begun to decay or been exposed to minerals like iron, manganese, or silver. 

How to Get Rid of Tooth Discoloration

There are many benefits of teeth whitening, including increased self-esteem. The best way to get these benefits is to find a dentist to help you make a plan.

Ways to whiten your teeth include changing your lifestyle or diet, improving your oral hygiene routine, and in-home or in-office whitening procedures.

Lifestyle and Diet Changes

Teeth discoloration may be a sign that you need to cut back on coffee, tea, juice, or soda. If you can’t quit them, try drinking through a straw so that they’re less likely to stain your teeth.

Another habit you may need to quit is smoking. Start slowly and build up to finally putting the cigarettes down forever.

Better Oral Hygiene

Teeth discoloration is also a sign of poor oral hygiene. Be sure to brush, floss, and use an antibacterial mouthwash every day. One of the best times to do so is after eating or drinking any of the common things that stain your teeth. 

In-Home Whitening

In-home teeth whitening products may be the most convenient solution for mild discoloration.

Try brushing with a whitening toothpaste that contains 1-1.5% hydrogen peroxide. It will remove surface stains, but you may need gels or strips with 6-10% hydrogen peroxide for deeper stains.

Professional Care

Regular 6-month cleanings at the dentist are essential for your oral health, but they can also perform other procedures if your discoloration persists.

In-office teeth whitening involves placing a gel or rubber shield over your gums and then having them bleached by the dentist. They may also give you a fitted tray to take home to maintain the results.

There are also a few more permanent procedures that will keep your teeth whiter for longer.

Bonding fuses whiter materials over the stained areas. Veneers are a shell that goes over the front of your teeth. Crowns protect and cover them while making them look whiter.

Be aware that these permanent procedures can’t be whitened after they’re applied. Make sure you find a dentist you trust who can match them to the natural color of your teeth so that you’ll be satisfied in the long term.

Where to Go to Get Treated for Tooth Discoloration

Tooth discoloration is a common reason to not want to show off your smile. There are several reasons it may occur, including aging, genetics, and your diet. Other causes include certain conditions or medications and mouth trauma. 

The positive news is that there are also several ways to treat tooth discoloration. You can change your lifestyle and what you eat or drink, apply in-home whitening products, or see your dentist for professional help.

Justice Dental can help you get the smile you’ve always dreamed of. Contact us today to learn how we can help.