Tooth Discoloration 101 – What You Need to Know

 In Oral Hygiene

Teeth become discolored when staining agents adhere to the surface or change the inside of the tooth. There are three forms of tooth discoloration:

  • Intrinsic – discoloration of the dentin (inner layer), such as by overexposure to fluoride in childhood, expectant mothers or young children using tetracycline antibiotics or dental trauma. These stains may be black, purple or grey
  • Extrinsic – only the enamel (outer layer) is stained, usually by smoking or taking beverages like wine, coffee, and carbonated drinks. These stains are yellow to brown in color

Generally, the dentin yellows and the enamel thins with age, causing age-related discoloration

Is Tooth Discoloration Reversible?

Some tooth discoloration is reversible, primarily extrinsic stains. Professional cleaning can remove temporary staining by beverages for instance. More permanent extrinsic stains can be removed by using a bleaching agent to whiten. Severe or dentin discoloration may only be corrected by placing veneers or crowns on affected teeth.

If you have severe discoloration, talk to your dentist about various tooth whitening procedures to find which may work for your situation. There are products you can apply at home and others that must be done at a dentist’s or dental hygienist’s office.

How Can I Prevent Tooth Discoloration?

Some staining can be prevented by proper oral hygiene – brushing after every meal. If you’re not able to brush, rinsing with water is advisable.

Dentists recommend rinsing with water and waiting 30 minutes to brush after consuming wine, coffee or carbonated drinks. This is because the acid weakens the enamel, and brushing may still cause thinning. Waiting allows the enamel to harden before brushing.

Intrinsic staining caused by nerve or blood vessel damage may also be prevented by undergoing root canal before the pulp decays and darkens.

Expectant mother and children below 8 years should not be given tetracycline antibiotics, which cause permanent graying of the dentin layer. Similarly, regulate the amount of fluoride for young children to prevent fluoride discoloration. There are toothpaste made for young children until the enamel is fully formed.


Prevent discoloration of teeth can help you enhance your smile. At Big Bend Orthodontics, our orthodontist, Dr. Heidi Butts, works with you to deliver satisfactory results. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Start typing and press Enter to search