• LaurenWallace

Teeth Stains: Causes, Types, and How to Remove Teeth Stains


Teeth stain for many reasons, including your food and drink choices, oral hygiene, and medication use. Teeth stains occur on the surface of the tooth or below the tooth enamel and some people develop both types of teeth stains.  Types of Tooth Discoloration (Stains) Tooth discoloration can occur as a result of surface stains, due to actual changes in your tooth material, or because of a combination of both factors. Dental professionals have identified three main categories of tooth discoloration: 

  1. Extrinsic Teeth Stains: An extrinsic tooth stain is staining on the surface of the tooth. It occurs when stain particles, such as pigmented residue from food or drink, build-up in the film of protein that covers the tooth enamel. Extrinsic tooth stains are typically caused by tobacco use or by regularly drinking coffee and tea, wine or cola drinks. This type of tooth stain responds well to regular dental cleaning and brushing the teeth with whitening toothpaste.

  2. Intrinsic Teeth Stains: An intrinsic tooth stain is staining below the surface of the tooth. It occurs when stain-causing particles work through the exterior of the tooth and accumulate within the tooth enamel. Excessive fluoride use and  also have been associated with intrinsic, especially in children. An intrinsic tooth stain is trickier to remove, but it can be done. An intrinsic tooth stain may require bleaching using professional or at-home chemical teeth-whitening products, such as Whitestrips.

  3. Age-Related Teeth Stains: Age-related teeth stains combine the results of both intrinsic and extrinsic tooth discoloration. Because the core tissue of your teeth, the dentin, naturally yellows over time, teeth discolor with age. As we age, the enamel that covers the tooth becomes thinner, allowing the dentin to show through. These intrinsic causes of discoloration combined with extrinsic causes such as the effects of certain foods, beverages, and tobacco, will cause most adults' teeth to discolor with age.

Stained Teeth Causes Teeth stains have many causes. Certain foods and drinks can cause teeth stains, and as we’ve talked about, tooth discoloration is also a product of several biological factors, including the transparency of your tooth enamel. There are many causes of discolored teeth—some of which could have possibly been prevented, and many of which are beyond your control. This comprehensive list can help you determine the cause of discolored teeth, and in many cases, help prevent further discoloring of your teeth:

  • Food & Drink: Coffee, tea, dark sodas, red wine, and even a few fruits and vegetables are proven causes of discolored teeth.

  • Tobacco: Both cigarettes and chewing tobacco can contribute to discolored teeth.

  • Oral Care: Poor dental hygiene, such as inadequate brushing or flossing, can lead to tooth discoloration.

  • Trauma or Disease: Any trauma, illness, or disease that affects enamel development in children—either in the womb or while teeth are developing (under the age of 8)—can cause discolored teeth. Trauma to adult teeth can also cause discolored teeth. In addition, there are a few diseases and disease treatments that can cause discolored teeth. Chemotherapy and radiation, for example, discolor teeth.

  • Medical Treatments: Sometimes medical treatments can contribute to teeth stain, and several classes of medications including high blood pressure medications, chemotherapy, antihistamines and some antipsychotic medications can cause teeth stains.

To know how to remove a tooth stain, it helps to know what type of stain you are dealing with. Paul A. Sagel, a Procter & Gamble Research Fellow, has conducted extensive research into the science of tooth stains. Research by Sagel and others h