Tooth Discoloration

Are you bothered by the colour of your teeth? Tooth discoloration can result from stains on the surface or changes within the tooth. Learn more about the causes and treatment of tooth discoloration here.

While tooth discoloration is largely a cosmetic problem, it can affect your self-esteem. The good news is there are effective remedies available, especially if the problem is due to external factors.

What is Tooth Discoloration?

It occurs when the enamel (the hard, outer surface of the tooth) or the dentine (the layer below the enamel) become discoloured or stained. However, you can prevent tooth discoloration with regular professional cleaning and good home care, which includes brushing, flossing and rinsing your mouth with water after having wine, coffee, tea, or other drinks that may stain the teeth.

What Causes Tooth Discoloration

Discoloration can be caused by: 
External factors causing staining of the outer layer of the teeth, which include smoking and consuming beverages such as coffee, wine, cola, or foods such as apples and potatoes.
Internal factors causing the inner structure of the tooth (the dentin) to darken or get a yellowish tint such as:
o excessive exposure to fluoride during early childhood
o using tetracycline antibiotics during the second half of pregnancy and by children eight years old or younger
Dental trauma tooth in a young child causing damage to the developing permanent tooth.
Systemic disease/illness during tooth formation such as hemolytic disease of the newborn.
Age-related discoloration is due to dentin turning yellow naturally with ageing and the stained dentin making the teeth look discoloured.
Dentinogenesis imperfecta is a rare condition in which a child is born with grey, amber, or purple discolorations in the teeth.
Loss of vitality secondary to trauma or infection (dental caries) can result in greyish discoloration.
Amelogenesis imperfecta is a genetic condition in which enamel formed during tooth development is abnormal and causes discoloration of teeth.

The prognosis is very good for teeth stains caused by external factors. However, stains caused by internal factors may be more difficult or take longer to remove.


These include:
Stains on the enamel which can range from white streaks to yellow tints or brown spots.
Yellow stains on the teeth if the dentin is showing through the worn out enamel.


A dentist or a dental professional can diagnose tooth discoloration by doing a dental examination.

Tooth Discoloration Treatment

Treatment options can vary depending on the cause of the discoloration. They include:
Proper brushing and flossing techniques
Avoidance of the foods and beverages that cause stains
Vital bleaching, using over-the-counter whitening agents or in-office whitening procedures
Non-vital bleaching

Discoloration can often be removed by applying a bleaching agent to the enamel of the teeth. In addition, teeth can be covered with a colour-matched composite bonding material or veneers (thin ceramic shells) that cover the outer surfaces of the teeth.

Intrinsic stains that are caused by damage to a nerve or blood vessel in a tooth sometimes can be prevented such as by removing the inner part of the tooth (the pulp) followed by non-vital bleaching.

Prevention of Tooth Discoloration

With some simple lifestyle changes, teeth discoloration may be prevented. Heavy coffee drinkers and/or smokers may consider cutting down or quitting all together.
Improve dental hygiene by regular brushing, flossing and getting teeth cleaned by a dentist every six to 12 months.

Tooth Discoloration

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