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

Teeth Stains: Causes, Types, and How to Get Rid of Them.

Untitled design - 2022-10-07T111542.425

Lumos Smile Logo

If you've ever wondered why your teeth are stained, you're not alone. Learn more about how teeth stains happen and what you can do to remove and prevent them, and restore your best smile.


    Tooth stains aren't limited to having naturally dark teeth or just drinking a lot of coffee. Sometimes the reason you’ll see a discolored front tooth is because of some trauma that happened many years ago. Understanding what causes discolored tooth enamel and being able to identify the various types of staining can help you determine the right way to handle it. Not all teeth stains can be removed with teeth whitening. Some dark stains are more serious and need to be treated by a dentist and others are simple and easy to remove.

    Your smile can reveal a lot about you, including the stains on your teeth. For most people, these stains develop gradually over time. However, certain foods and drinks (like coffee or red wine) can cause them to yellow or discolor. There are many factors that can contribute to this, such as diet, lifestyle, aging, or underlying medical conditions.

    So, how can you get rid of them? Let's break down how teeth really get stained and discuss the different types of teeth stains, the biggest culprits of teeth stains and finally, how to prevent and get rid of them.

    Why Does Tooth Staining Happen?

    Discolored tooth enamel is caused by trauma, external factors, or abnormalities during tooth development. To understand what causes discoloration, it's important to know the basics of tooth anatomy. The outer layer of enamel has tiny, porous openings called "tubules" which trap stain particles over time. The layer underneath enamel, called dentin, has a natural yellow hue which can make teeth look stained. Physical changes inside a tooth during development, due to medication or minerals, can alter tooth color.

    Cavities vs. Teeth Stains

    There is a common misconception that if you see a dark spot on your tooth, it is a cavity. However, this is not always the case. Cavities can cause dark stains, but usually only if the decay is already large and invasive. If you have a cavity, you may also experience symptoms like sweet sensitivity, tooth pain, or a visible opening inside your tooth.

    Stained teeth usually affect multiple tooth surfaces, rather than just one. You may see the stain across several teeth or on different tooth surfaces. Stain can be removed through professional dental cleanings, whitening, and prevented with great home care. However, the only way to remove discoloration caused by cavities is by getting a dental filling.

    Different Types Of Tooth Stains And Colors

    Teeth can become yellow or discolored for various reasons. Tooth stains can be caused by a variety of factors, including colored foods and beverages, medication, fluoride, tobacco, aging, or trauma to the tooth. Depending on the severity of the stain and its type, some people may not benefit greatly from teeth whitening. However, everyone will benefit to some degree from whitening, so it's important to consult with your dentist prior to use to ensure you have realistic expectations.

    Teeth stains can be broken into two categories: extrinsic, which are on the surface of your tooth's enamel, and intrinsic, which are in the layers beneath the enamel. The dentin layer below the enamel is what gives your tooth its color. This is where teeth get stained, because the enamel layer is porous and staining particles from coffee, tobacco, wine, tea, etc. can seep through the pores of your teeth and penetrate into the dentin. The more of these particles that get through, the more stained your teeth become.

    If you have a specific color of stain on your teeth, it can help you figure out what is causing the discoloration. If the stain is on a front tooth, it may be caused by something different than if all of your teeth are discolored. Knowing where and what you see can help you identify the cause of your discolored teeth.

    Causes Of Tooth Stains

    We’ve all been there. We eat something a dark shade of purple, and the next time we look in the mirror, our tongues are black and our teeth coated in color. Teeth stains can be caused by many different things, including certain foods and drinks, the transparency of your tooth enamel, and other biological factors. Some of these causes can be prevented, while others are out of your control. Scan this list of top foods and drinks known to discolor teeth, and try to rinse and brush after having them. When that is not an option, use water to flush them out of your mouth.

    Certain foods and drinks, like coffee, tea, and colas, can stain your teeth. Smoking or chewing tobacco can also cause stains. And finally, poor dental hygiene habits, like not brushing or flossing enough, can leave plaque and other stain-producing substances on your teeth.

    Disease can lead to tooth discoloration. Treatments for conditions like radiation and chemotherapy can also cause teeth discoloration. In addition, certain infections in pregnant mothers can lead to tooth discoloration in their babies by affecting their enamel development.

    Some medications can cause teeth discoloration in developing children, including tetracycline and doxycycline. Mouth rinses and washes containing chlorhexidine can also cause staining. Other drugs that may cause teeth discoloration include antihistamines, antipsychotics, and drugs for high blood pressure.

    Dental materials can affect the color of teeth, with silver sulfide-containing materials causing a gray-black color. Aging and genetics can also play a role in the color of teeth, with the outer layer of enamel wearing away with age and some people having naturally brighter or thicker enamel.

    Fluoride exposure from the environment or from overuse of fluoride products can cause tooth discoloration in young children whose teeth are still developing.

    How To Get Rid Of Tooth Stains

    So, all this talk about stains is interesting, but how do you get rid of stained teeth? We've all had teeth stains at one point or another, as mentioned above, extrinsic stains can usually be removed with good oral health, brushing your teeth (hopefully with an electric toothbrush and whitening toothpaste!) and regular dental checkups. But, for those more stubborn and intrinsic stains, clinically proven ingredients, like carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide can help you achieve the best at-home teeth whitening results.

    The active ingredient in whitening gels is peroxide, which bleaches teeth by breaking up large chromophore molecules into smaller, less-colored molecules. There are only two types of bleaching agents in whitening gels: carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide.

    Carbamide peroxide must be converted into hydrogen peroxide to work as a tooth bleaching agent. However, the concentration of hydrogen peroxide produced is much lower than the concentration of carbamide peroxide. Nevertheless, carbamide peroxide is used in many tooth whitening gels because it is more stable and has a longer shelf life.

    Not all teeth whitening products are created equal. That's why the key to successful teeth whitening at home is the delivery device. Custom-fit teeth whitening trays ensure even and constant coverage of whitening gel on all teeth surfaces. Tray-based teeth whitening with carbamide peroxide gel was first introduced in 1989 and has been shown to be safe and effective in numerous studies. It is widely accepted by the dental community as the gold standard for teeth whitening.

    How To Prevent Tooth Stains

    We've all had teeth stains at one point or another. To help prevent these stains, try to rinse and brush after having foods and drinks that are known to discolor teeth. When that is not an option, simply use water to flush them out of your mouth.

    Knowing what causes tooth stains is important for both treatment and prevention. If you think certain foods are staining your teeth, avoid or limit exposure to them. Drinking through a straw can help reduce staining on your teeth. You should also avoid tobacco use, and talk to your healthcare professional about any medications, illnesses, or recent tooth traumas. Getting your teeth professionally cleaned every six months can also help minimize staining. In between cleanings, brush and floss regularly to prevent tartar buildup and help keep your teeth naturally white!

    How Often Can You Whiten Your Teeth

    You can whiten your teeth at a speed that suits you, based on how stained your teeth are, your daily habits, and frequency of indulgences of the biggest staining culprits.

    We recommend starting with a 45-minute to 1-hour long whitening treatment, and gradually increasing the length of time as your teeth become more comfortable. If you have sensitive teeth, start with shorter sessions and use the Lumos Desensitizing Gel after each application. For best results, use Lumos Smile 5-7 days in a row for your initial treatment, and then 1-2 times per month for maintenance.

    When To See A Dentist

    Even if you take good care of your teeth, they can still become stained over time. It's important to see your dentist regularly so they can identify any teeth that may need urgent attention. If the stain is superficial, they can usually just polish it off during a regular cleaning. However, if you have a discolored front tooth that stands out from the others, you should see a dentist as soon as possible.

    Untitled design - 2022-09-19T205338.235

    Kate Hernandez, BS, RDH

    Kate is a licensed dental hygienist who works in cosmetic dentistry and co-founded Lumos Smile, believing that good oral health leads to improved overall wellbeing.


    Email us at [email protected] or schedule time to speak with a Lumos team member.

    Shopping Cart