4 Common Causes of Discolored Teeth

Posted by Louis Russell, Jr., DDS Jan 11,2023

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When you think of what causes discolored teeth, you may automatically consider poor dental hygiene and tooth-staining foods and drinks. However, this isn’t always the case. Tooth discoloration can happen for several reasons, and each has its own treatment approach. 

After examining your teeth, Louis A. Russell, Jr., DDS, and our team at Russell Family Dentistry can help to determine the type of discoloration your teeth have and offer teeth whitening solutions to correct or even reverse it. 

We explain the three types of tooth discoloration and its four common causes, in addition to treatment options for each. 

The three categories of tooth discoloration

When you have tooth discoloration, it’s most likely going to fall into one of these subtypes: 

Extrinsic staining

Extrinsic staining happens when stain molecules permeate the indentations of your enamel – giving your teeth a yellow or brown-colored tint.

Intrinsic discoloration

You have intrinsic discoloration when your teeth’s inner dentin layer becomes darker. This type of discoloration makes your teeth look grayer than typical.

Age-related changes

Your teeth change both intrinsically and extrinsically as you get older. Your enamel becomes thinner while the dentin layer underneath also grows thicker, which is why many people experience yellowing teeth as they age. 

How your teeth become discolored

There are a lot of factors that can contribute to tooth discoloration. Some might be readily preventable, while others are out of your control. These are the four most common causes of tooth discoloration: 

1. Stain molecule buildup

Regular contact with stain molecules is one of the top reasons your teeth can become discolored. The main tooth-staining agents are berries, red wine, tea, coffee, and dark sodas. Other common culprits are chocolate, curry, balsamic vinegar, and barbecue sauce. 

The tar and nicotine in cigarettes and chewing tobacco products can also damage your enamel and discolor your teeth. 

2. Poor dental hygiene 

It may come as no surprise that insufficient brushing and flossing and missing out on professional dental cleanings is another top cause of tooth discoloration. Poor dental hygiene lets stain molecules build up more quickly than they should and allow for the accumulation of enamel-yellowing plaque and tartar.

Even if you avoid enamel staining molecules, infrequent brushing and flossing give all the starches and sugars in your diet more time to attack your enamel.

3. Certain medications

Certain medications can darken and discolor your teeth intrinsically, giving them that grayish tint. Antihistamines and hypertension (high blood pressure) medicines have been associated with tooth discoloration and medications that treat psychosis. 

4. Tooth injury and trauma

Your tooth can be permanently discolored if you have a dental injury that causes trauma to a tooth. When your tooth gets hurt by an external force, such as an accidental fall, it can cause either bleeding inside the tooth’s pulp or the death of a nerve root, ultimately leading to intrinsic discoloration. 

Your treatment options 

If your pearly whites aren’t as white as you’d like them to be, our team can help. But before we can develop an effective treatment plan for you, we’ll need to establish what’s causing your tooth discoloration in the first place.

For tooth discoloration caused by extrinsic staining, your treatment plan for a whiter, brighter smile may include one of the following options:

  • Professional dental cleaning
  • In-office teeth whitening 
  • Dietary and/or lifestyle changes 

Otherwise, if your tooth discoloration is primarily intrinsic, you may be a candidate for one of cosmetic dentistry’s concealing offerings, including:

  • Veneers
  • Crowns
  • Dental bonding 

If you’re ready for a whiter, brighter smile, we have the right solution for you. 

To learn more about our treatment options to help you achieve your smile goals, call our office in Tomball, Texas, at 281-603-1911 or use our online scheduler to request an appointment with us today. 

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