August 18, 2021 by Dr. Abhi Singh

What Causes Teeth Discolouration

We all know that the best way to keep teeth white is through regular brushing and regular dental check-ups. Still, unfortunately, this isn’t always enough. Sometimes, discolouration of our teeth occurs due to dietary habits, smoking, or even drinking coffee.

While this may not be a severe problem, it can affect your confidence and make you feel less confident in social situations. Luckily, there are many ways to combat this issue.

In this blog post, we’ll talk about what causes tooth discolouration, so you can make an informed decision about how to improve your teeth’s appearance and how to best protect your pearly whites.

Different Types of Staining

Extrinsic Discolouration

Extrinsic tooth discolouration is caused by external factors, generally the type that affects the enamel layer. The most common extrinsic stains are:

Dark food: dark-coloured berries, food with artificial colouring

Beverages: soda, red wine, coffee, tea

Cigarettes and tobacco products

Intrinsic Discolouration

Intrinsic stains appear on the inside of the teeth and can not be entirely removed with over-the-counter whitening products. These types of stains are greyer than extrinsic or surface stains. The most common extrinsic stains are:

  • Medication: use of tetracycline during the tooth development stage
  • Dental trauma or internal bleeding: Naturally, any blow to a person’s mouth where the nerves are damaged, including chips or cracks in their permanent teeth.
  • Tooth injury
  • Tooth decay
  • Fluorosis or too much exposure to fluoride during the early years would cause white spots or white lines on the teeth.
  • Hereditary conditions or genetics 

Age-Related

As people age, the outer layer that covers their teeth becomes thinner, exposing dentin and making the teeth appear yellow. It is usually caused by intrinsic and extrinsic factors, which are sometimes beyond a person’s control.

Causes of Tooth Discolouration

It may be challenging to maintain a healthy smile with all the different drinks and foods we consume every day. Moreover, lifestyle and age also contribute to tooth discolouration. 

Foods & Drinks

  • Berries – Dark-coloured berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries (including juice products)
  • Coloured Sauces – Sauces with intense pigments, like soy sauce, curry, tomato sauce, or pasta sauce.
  • Coffee – Coffee contains tannins, a type of polyphenol that reacts with water and is also found in tea or wine. When drinking coffee, the tannin content can leave a yellow tint on your teeth.
  • Wine – You may notice purple discolouration on your teeth after consuming red wine. Teeth turn slightly purple after drinking red wine. It may take years for the shade to change to brown or dingy grey. Still, eventually, it will happen due to the acidic and tannin content in red wines and natural dyes that are present.
  • Tea – Green tea and black tea contain tannins that appear to stain teeth over time, while herbal teas such as chamomile and hibiscus can also cause staining if consumed over a long period of time. 

Age & Antibiotics

Age – Age-related tooth stains arise from both intrinsic and extrinsic tooth discolouration. Slowly, over time, teeth start to look yellowish as the outer enamel layer on the tooth surface wears away, exposing the dentin underneath, which is naturally yellow.

Antibiotics – When kids are younger than 8, the antibiotics tetracycline and doxycycline can affect the formation of tooth enamel. This condition is often seen in children with teeth that are still forming. It can also arise in babies if their mothers took these medications while they were pregnant.

The degree of teeth staining with tetracycline is affected by dosage, treatment period or exposure, and degree of tooth mineralisation or calcification. The permanent discolouration can be yellow or brown spots and varies throughout the tooth.

Other Causes

  • Smoking – Tobacco chewers and smokers are not only more likely to deal with gum disease and other oral health issues due to chronic use of tobacco products, but they are almost guaranteed to have yellowed teeth.
  • Braces: While braces might straighten our teeth, they can also leave behind discolouration once removed. You’ll inevitably have stained teeth due to the elastic component of braces. It usually turns yellow from certain foods and drinks. To avoid this unwanted side effect, it’s best to limit the intake of heavily coloured foods or drinks while wearing them.

How Do I Get Rid of Tooth Discolouration?

Proper oral hygiene is not enough to remove tooth discolouration. However, there is a considerable range of tooth bleaching products and procedures that can leave your teeth looking as white as you’ve always dreamed they could be. 

Whatever your budget may be, there’s something for everyone, from in-office teeth whitening to at-home whitening kits. However, the effectiveness varies per procedure taken. Here are the three treatment options to whiten and brighten your teeth:

In-Chair Teeth Whitening Treatment 

In-chair teeth whitening treatments are popular because they can provide immediate results with a minimal time commitment. In addition, whitening treatments such as ZOOM, BOOST, and Kor Whitening, which provide the quickest results, are among the most popular choices these days.

The dental professional administering teeth-whitening treatments usually uses either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient, and some clinicians may also use a special light.

Dental in-office whitening treatments can give your teeth two or three levels of brightness. Ideally, the procedure is done within 30 minutes. Alternatively, you may have your tooth whitening treatment during your regular dental cleaning, which should occur at the dental clinic every six months.

Take-Home Teeth Whitening Kit

It takes a long time and is more intensive than in-office whitening procedures. Your dentist will first create impressions of your mouth to make custom moulds for you.

Your dentist will provide six months’ worth of trays and whitening gel, depending on your needs. If this is for long-term use, they will ensure that there is enough on hand so that you don’t run out while waiting for the next batch to come in. Moreover, gel refills are also available if additional gels are required.

Therefore, this procedure is perfect for patients who need a quick and effective teeth whitening treatment.

Over-The-Counter Whitening Products 

These treatments are inexpensive but take a lot of time to do. An over-the-counter product is generally the most accessible option for those looking to lighten their teeth. However, the results don’t last that long. Thus, you have to redo the process every few months. 

Whitening products such as strips, toothpaste, mouthwashes, gels, pens, and LED kits can easily be bought at the drugstore. 

Ways to Prevent Teeth Discolouration

  • It is not uncommon for food and drinks to stain the teeth, but there are simple ways to get rid of them. After consuming pigmented foods or drinks, brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and floss your teeth as soon as possible. Until you can do that, gargle or drink plenty of water to remove the particles that may stain your teeth.
  • Avoid products that could stain your teeth, such as tea or coffee. If you drink them often and frequently, try to minimise their consumption.
  • Drink beverages such as soda, juice, iced coffee or tea with a straw to avoid staining your teeth and enamel. If you do not have one, drink quickly without letting the beverage remain on your teeth.
  • You can’t go wrong with practising and maintaining good dental health for a shiny, white smile and clean teeth. Brush your teeth, floss daily, and use a water flosser or mouth rinse to remove any stains between the teeth. Using a whitening toothpaste will help tremendously in maintaining an attractive smile. Getting a regular professional cleaning would be good as the dental hygienist could remove bits of plaque on the surfaces of the teeth to prevent tooth stains.
  • Quitting certain habits can help you reclaim your teeth’s natural whiteness. Talk to your doctor about quitting smoking or chewing tobacco to achieve this goal. Cutting back on foods and beverages that stain teeth can benefit those who struggle with any oral care regime. While it may be difficult, if dental hygiene is an issue, bring along a toothbrush so you can keep your teeth free from stain-causing substances.

Final Thoughts

Tooth discolouration is the most common dental problem in children and adolescents, more so among adults. While there are many causes, we can help you identify which one applies to your case by taking a thorough examination of your teeth.

We understand that discoloured teeth can be frustrating and embarrassing. It’s a natural process, but if you want to restore your smile to its original shade of white, we have the solution for you! Byford Smiles is one of Byford’s most trusted dental clinics, with many years of experience in cosmetic dentistry. Let us help you out today by calling 08 9532 0247 or booking your appointment online.

AboutDr. Abhi Singh
Dr Abhi is a member of the Australian Dental Association and loves living and working in our community. He has over a decade of experience in all aspects of dentistry with a special interest in implants, wisdom teeth removal and cosmetic dentistry.