The Causes of Tooth Discoloration and How to Solve It

Most of us want pearly white teeth - but that can be difficult to achieve, especially as we age. Even people who are consistent with cleaning their teeth can still have tooth discoloration. 

Here are some of the most common causes of tooth discoloration:


Poor Dental Hygiene

Not brushing, flossing, and rinsing enough to remove plaque and stain-producing substances can cause your teeth to turn yellow. Regular professional dental cleanings and polishing can help combat yellow teeth.

Disease and Certain Medications and Treatments

Several diseases that affect enamel and dentin, such as head and neck radiation and chemotherapy can lead to tooth discoloration. Pregnant mothers with infections who use Tetracycline antibiotics can cause permanent tooth discoloration in their babies. 

Other prescriptions, such as antipsychotic drugs and high blood pressure medications can also cause tooth enamel to yellow. Remember to discuss your medications or any medication changes with your dentist.

Trauma and Teeth

Tooth discoloration can also happen to adult teeth from trauma, and young children can cause damage to their teeth from a fall or other accident. With this in mind, it's important to use mouthguards when participating in sports, especially where contact with another person or object is common.

Dental Materials

According to the American Dental Association, there is a growing appreciation of silver diamine fluoride (SDF) to stop cavity lesions, which is an off-label use for the material. SDF currently has FDA clearance as a desensitizing agent. The potential benefits for its use in treating cavities include its low cost and ease of application, but the treatment can cause permanent black stain on the cavity lesion. Be sure to talk to your dentist about any new treatments you want to consider. 

Genetics and Age

Some people naturally have thicker or brighter enamel than others. As you age, the outer layer of enamel on your teeth wears away, revealing the yellowish color of dentin.

Tobacco Use

Tobacco use, including smoking, chewing and other products, can also cause teeth to become yellow, and longtime users can find brown stains on their teeth. While studies suggest e-cigarettes generally do not stain teeth, they do cause other problems like dry mouth and gum inflammation that can lead to tooth decay. 

Preventing Tooth Discoloration

There are several things you can do to prevent tooth discoloration and keep your teeth sparkling white. Make sure to brush, floss and use antibacterial mouthwash daily, and consider using a whitening toothpaste.

Certain foods and beverages such as coffee, tea, red wine, blueberries, and tomato sauce can cause stains on your teeth. Brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth after enjoying one of these foods can help ward off staining. Drinking with a straw helps keep stains away.

If you use tobacco products or e-cigarettes, consider cutting back or quitting, and have your teeth cleaned by a dental hygienist every 6 months. 

Teeth Whitening Solutions

There is not one simple fix to teeth discoloration - nor is it instant. However, there are some general tips on how to improve your teeth’s color and in the long term get those teeth pearly white again.

Using over-the-counter whitening agents can help, but you might need to get a professional product for better results. Your dentist can help create a customized whitening plan for your teeth based on the cause of the discoloration. Most dentists have in-office whitening procedures or in-home whitening agents they can give you to use at home. There are also dental procedures such as bonding or veneers that can improve the color and shape of your teeth. 

If your teeth aren’t as white as you’d like, make an appointment to see your dentist today. If you don’t already have a dentist, use our “find a dentist” tool below to bring you one step closer to a bigger, brighter smile. 

To help save on your out-of-pocket costs in your journey to whiter teeth, look into the Delta Dental Individual and Family plans that include coverage for teeth whitening and cosmetic veneers

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