Tooth Discoloration

Tooth stains are common in many situations.  They range from being barely noticeable to unsightly.  There are a variety of causes and types of tooth discolorations, as well as several solutions.

Extrinsic discoloration

There are two types of tooth discolorations. The first is extrinsic. Extrinsic staining is that which primarily affects the outer portion of the tooth. Such activities can cause extrinsic discoloration as smoking, chewing tobacco, or drinking colas, coffees and other staining beverages.

White spots on the teeth may be caused by white spot decalcification, which is the evidence of dental caries on the tooth. The white spots are caused by the dissolving of the enamel on teeth, which is the beginning of decay.

Lack of meticulous dental care will cause a buildup of plaque, which gives teeth a yellow appearance.

Intrinsic discoloration

Intrinsic tooth discoloration is discoloration due to dentin damage. 

Some of the medical causes are the use of tetracycline antibiotics in children under the age of eight,  which causes stains. Antipsychotic medications, high blood pressure medications, chemotherapy, and antihistamines can also cause tooth discoloration. 

  • Tooth trauma dramatic enough to cause bleeding within the tooth will also cause intrinsic discoloration. For example, a person may take a blow to the face, and a tooth turns black.
  • Dentinogenesis imperfecta is a rare condition that causes grey, amber, or even purple colorization of teeth.  
  • Old age causes tooth enamel to thin. The thinning reveals more of the underlying dentin and makes teeth look yellow. Many senior citizens have yellow teeth as a result of the normal aging process.
  • Genetics can also play a part in a person having naturally yellow teeth, which can run in families.
  • Too much fluoride in early childhood before the full formation of tooth enamel will cause fluorosis. Fluoride consumption can be the result of swallowing fluoride toothpaste instead of spitting it out after brushing. Another cause is the over-fluoridation of water, such as the naturally-occurring fluoride in the water of Colorado Springs, which has led some residents there to have what is dubbed, “Colorado Brown Stain” due to the color of their teeth, which were, incidentally, incredibly cavity-resistant. 
Fluoride, with it's great benefits for hardening tooth enamel, can cause staining if a patient ingests too much before their tooth enamel is fully formed.

Fluoride, with it's great benefits for hardening tooth enamel, can cause staining if a patient ingests too much before their tooth enamel is fully formed.


Stains from dark beverages and tobacco can be lessened or eliminated entirely by a professional dental cleaning. A professional cleaning will take care of most, but possibly not all, of the worst stains.

If the staining is more pronounced, whitening, either by a dentist or a home whitening kit, may also eliminate stains. A professional whitening treatment costs more, but the results are immediate.

Extreme stains or intrinsic tooth discoloration may only be treatable with veneers or crowns. 

Regardless of the cause of discolored teeth, if a patient is less-than-happy with the appearance of their smile, it’s essential to talk to their dentist to explore options for treatment of tooth discoloration. With patience and perseverance, a beautiful smile is attainable!

If you need a gentle, caring dental team, please call our office at (623) 362-2550. We’ll give you the very best dental care we can!