No one is born with perfectly white teeth. In fact, the exact shade of our teeth is determined by our genetics, and some people’s teeth are naturally a little bit darker. Plus, as we age, the shade of our teeth becomes duller.

Unfortunately, many people suffer from tooth discoloration, a condition that distorts the natural shade of the teeth making them appear yellow, brown, or spotted. It is when a tooth does not match in color with the rest of the teeth in the mouth, or an area of a single tooth does not match in color with the rest of the tooth. It’s also known as ‘Stained Teeth’. It may be intrinsic (internal) which is when the inner structure of the tooth, the dentin, darkens or gets a yellow tint; and extrinsic (external) which occurs when the outer layer of the tooth (the enamel) is stained. It may also occur on all teeth such as with tetracycline staining, a particular tooth such as with a traumatized tooth, or on isolated areas of a tooth or teeth such as with decalcification from poor oral hygiene.

Tooth discoloration can be natural or genetic or caused by a variety of factors. And these following factors are:

Smoking. If you smoke or chew tobacco then you might also notice brown or black stains on the surface of your teeth. Nicotine stains are some of the toughest to remove.

Excessive coffee and tea use. It’s usually just on the surface and can be easily removed.

You had too much exposure to fluoride during early childhood.

Your mother used tetracycline antibiotics during the second half of pregnancy.

You used tetracycline antibiotics when you were 8 years old or younger.

You had trauma that affected a tooth when you were a young child. A fall, for example, may damage the developing permanent tooth.

You had trauma in a permanent tooth, and internal bleeding discolored the tooth.

Systemic disorders. You were born with a rare condition called dentinogenesis imperfecta. This causes gray, amber or purple discolorations. Erythropoietic porphyria, alkaptonuria, hyperbilirubinemia and others can all cause stains on teeth.

Early decay, active decay, and failing silver fillings or sometimes by medication taken as a child.

Natural teeth do tend to get darker over time as the enamel thins exposing more of the internal dentin of the tooth which is darker.

Traumatic blows to teeth can cause internal staining.

Amalgam fillings tend to leak resulting in dark graying of teeth.

Teeth can decalcify from acids produced by food & bacteria.

Eating too many citrus fruits, like lemon and oranges, can also cause your teeth to get discolored.

Teeth can become darker after root canal treatment, especially if the area was not properly cleaned from the infected or dead pulp tissue.

Plaque and Tartar. Accumulation of these two substances can alter the way your teeth look.

Intrinsic stains that are caused by damage to a nerve or blood vessel in a tooth sometimes can be prevented. You may need to have root canal treatment to remove the inner part of the tooth (the pulp) before it has a chance to decay and darken. However, teeth that have root canal treatment may darken anyway. To prevent intrinsic stains in children, avoid too much early exposure to fluorides. Once the enamel is formed, fluoride will not discolor teeth.

Extrinsic stains caused by food and drink can be removed by regular professional cleanings and home care. You also can buy whitening products over the counter. They contain a weaker bleach than the products you can get from your dentist. The whitening agent is applied as a gel placed in a mouthpiece or as a strip that sticks to your teeth. Over-the-counter mouthpieces fit less securely than the kind you get from your dentist, but they will lighten your teeth over time. Whitening toothpastes may remove minor stains. They do not actually change the overall color of your teeth. Bleaching will not lighten some stains, such as tetracycline stains. In this case, your dentist may recommend covering the discolored areas. This also may be useful when the tooth is chipped or badly damaged. A tooth can be covered with a color-matched composite bonding material.

Brushing your teeth after every meal will help to prevent some stains. Dentists recommend that you rinse your mouth with water after having wine, coffee or other drinks or foods that can stain your teeth. Regular cleanings by a dental hygienist also will help to remove surface stains. Tooth discoloration is just mainly a cosmetic problem. Regardless of whether the problem is major or minor, it can be a source of embarrassment and keep people from showing off their smile. Luckily, tooth discoloration is both preventable and treatable. So visit a dentist regularly. Any change in a normal tooth color should be evaluated by a dentist.