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Tooth Discoloration: Overview, Causes, Types, Treatment & Prevention

Written by Danica Lacson on September 28, 2018

What is Tooth Discoloration?

Tooth discoloration occurs when brown or black pits appear on the surface of the teeth. Sometimes, it appears as white streaks or yellow tints as well.

What are the Types and Causes of Tooth Discoloration?

There are three types of tooth discoloration — extrinsic, intrinsic, and age.

Extrinsic Tooth Discoloration

Extrinsic tooth discoloration refers to the discoloration of the outer layer of the tooth called the enamel. It is often caused by the teeth being subjected to foods, drinks, and activities that stains the teeth including coffee, wine, cola, and smoking.

Intrinsic Tooth Discoloration

Intrinsic tooth discoloration affects the inner structure of the tooth called dentin. There are various causes of intrinsic teeth discoloration which include:

  • Too much exposure to fluoride in childhood
  • Use of tetracycline antibiotics of your mother during her pregnancy or your use of the tetracycline when you were eight years old or younger
  • Dental trauma in childhood
  • Dental trauma in the permanent tooth which caused internal bleeding, discoloring the tooth
  • Being born with dentinogenesis imperfecta, a rare condition causing gray, purple, or amber discolorations

Age-related Tooth Discoloration

Age-related tooth discoloration is a combination of the extrinsic and intrinsic causes of teeth discoloration because the dentin naturally turns yellow as time passes while the enamel gets thinner, resulting to the yellowed dentin to show through.

What are the Symptoms of Tooth Discoloration?

Indications of tooth discoloration include white streaks, yellow tints, or brown spots or pits.

How is Tooth Discoloration diagnosed?

Tooth discoloration is easy to spot even without the use of special instrument or test. A visual test will detect a tooth discoloration.

How can I whiten my discolored teeth?

One option is to undergo teeth whitening, which lightens teeth and helps remove stains and discoloration and how the teeth look.

Before getting a teeth whitening treatment, it is advisable to visit a dentist and go through a checkup to diagnose and treat signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral problems.

Teeth whitening usually takes a few weeks, but some treatments are done in an hour.

After the treatment, teeth are expected to be sensitive to heat and cold. Gums may also be sore and irritated. But, such after-effects will only last for a few days.

Disclaimer: The oral health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. Hawaii Family Dental strongly recommends to always consult licensed dentists or other qualified health care professionals for any questions concerning your oral health.


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