Nov 17

Common Causes of Tooth Discoloration

by Bruno Lemay, D.M.D.
Tagged with: Teeth Whitening

Discolored teeth vs. bright white teethMany people are dissatisfied with the color of their teeth, but not always for the same reason. It is important to realize that there are several different factors that affect tooth color. While some discoloration affects the outer tooth enamel, others experience discoloration that stems from deeper layers of the tooth.

Cosmetic dentist Bruno Lemay helps patients from Cathedral City, CA, and surrounding areas understand the various causes of tooth discoloration. Based on the type of discoloration that patients are experiencing, he can recommend a cosmetic dentistry treatment to enhance the appearance of the teeth by erasing dental stains and brightening tooth color.

Foods and Beverages

The foods and beverages that people consume are the most obvious cause of dental stains and tooth discoloration. Discoloration is more likely when people eat and drink foods and beverages that are dark in color, those that are highly acidic, or both. However, even foods and beverages with the deepest pigmentation are unlikely to discolor the teeth if they are consumed infrequently. The problem usually comes from regular exposure to foods and beverages such as:

  • Coffee
  • Wine
  • Soda
  • Tea
  • Berries

Fortunately, discoloration that is the result of foods and beverages is extrinsic in nature, meaning it affects the outer layer of tooth enamel. This type of discoloration is easily treated with teeth whitening.

Tobacco Use

Tobacco use is a leading cause of tooth discoloration. Whether a person smokes cigarettes or uses chewing tobacco, the nicotine and tar in tobacco can work its way into the pores of the teeth, resulting in yellow or brown discoloration. Discoloration caused by tobacco use is extrinsic in nature, just like food and beverage stains. However, even with teeth whitening treatment, discoloration will continually be a problem until someone stops using tobacco products.

Poor Oral Hygiene Habits

Good oral hygiene habits, such as regular brushing and flossing and routine dental exams and cleanings, are essential to maintaining bright, white teeth. If the teeth are not cared for properly, plaque and tartar will build up on the teeth and gums. Plaque more easily holds on to discoloration, making dental stains more likely. The best solution for discoloration caused by poor oral hygiene habits is often a combination of a dental cleaning, teeth whitening, and the adoption of better oral hygiene habits.

The Use of Certain Medications

Some medications are known to alter the color of the teeth, or to cause spotting and staining. Discoloration is especially likely if medications are used by children, whose teeth are still developing. Medications that may result in discoloration include tetracycline and doxycycline antibiotics, antihistamines, some antipsychotic drugs, and chemotherapy and radiation.

Discoloration that is caused by medication is usually classified as intrinsic staining. Intrinsic staining affects the inner layer of the teeth, or the dentin. Intrinsic discoloration does not respond to traditional teeth whitening, but it can still be treated. Treatment options for our Cathedral City patients with intrinsic stains may include dental bonding, dental crowns, or porcelain veneers.

Oral Trauma

Sometimes tooth discoloration is the result of oral trauma. If the teeth suddenly take on a darker, or gray appearance shortly after an oral injury, it is likely because the roots of the tooth have been damaged. If the roots are damaged, our Cathedral City patients are likely to require root canal treatment to restore both the health and appearance of the tooth.


Like every other area of the body, the teeth are affected by age. As a person ages, their tooth enamel wears down, revealing more of the underlying dentin. This can make the teeth look more yellow in appearance, or just darker in color. This type of tooth discoloration is often best addressed with dental treatments such as bonding, crowns, or porcelain veneers.

Get a Brighter Smile

If you’d like to treat tooth discoloration and restore a brighter smile, Dr. Bruno Lemay can customize a cosmetic dentistry treatment plan that is right for you. To learn more about your options, call (760) 324-4450 and schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience.

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