What Causes Teeth Stains?

Published:January 26th, 2012

© Sander Klaver

Teeth stains can be caused by a number of different reasons as it can be down to age, genetics, and oral hygiene or lifestyle habits.

Teeth naturally darken as we age. This is simply a fact of life as teeth darken due to wear and tear which causes the enamel layer to thin, exposing more of the underlying dentin. Dentin is the part of the tooth which contains the natural colouring, and its exposure can cause the teeth to look yellowish or even slightly brown. If you compare the teeth of an older person with those of someone young, you’ll notice older peoples teeth tend to look slightly more translucent, especially towards the biting edges whereas younger people’s teeth tend to be a lot more uniform in colour with little differentiation between the colour at the neck of the tooth and the colour at the tip of the tooth. This translucency is caused by the thinning of the layer of enamel.

Genetics are responsible for the underlying shade of tooth colour in the dentin. This underlying colour can be anything from a light yellow to grey.

Lifestyle Habits

Eating and drinking are major culprits for causing teeth staining. The worst offenders are coffee, red wine, tea and dark coloured berries. Other offenders include acidic foods such as citrus fruits and white wine as these cause the tooth enamel to erode over time, increasing the transparency or translucency of teeth. Energy drinks and sodas are also acidic and full of sugar, and if you are fond of these try to drink and them as quickly as possible and keep them for an occasional treat.

Smoking will turn your teeth brown very quickly. Nicotine deposits can build upon the teeth and the residue is absorbed into the porous tooth enamel. It’s always easy to spot the teeth of a long-term smoker, even one who visits their dentist regularly.

Teeth grinding or bruxism can cause teeth to crack or chip, and these tiny fractures are more prone to staining. Teeth grinding is a habit which is frequently stress-related, and it can damage your teeth, gums and jaw as well as causing your teeth to become stained.

Exposure to certain antibiotics and drugs, especially tetracycline can cause brown or grey stains if used over a long period of time when teeth are still forming. This is a problem because it is a very effective anti-acne drug that is frequently prescribed to teenagers.

What Can You Do about Teeth Staining?
Regular visits to your dentist will help keep your teeth and gums healthy, and having your teeth regularly cleaned will also help remove surface staining. Obviously teeth whitening treatments will help brighten your smile, but adjusting your lifestyle habits can also help to maintain the whiteness for longer. If you are older and your teeth do have that translucent appearance, then you should ask your dentist about the best kind of whitening treatments as teeth whitening will not correct the translucency, and if overdone could cause the teeth to appear almost grey.


About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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