Everybody wants a beautiful smile, yet tooth discoloration remains a source of stress and embarrassment for consumers of all ages. Most dental patients don’t realize this, but there are actually three types of discoloration.

Extrinsic discoloration affects the tooth’s enamel, while intrinsic discoloration affects its dentin or inner structure. Age-related discoloration happens to everyone over time and is caused by a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Read on to find out about four of the most common causes of extrinsic and intrinsic discoloration to learn what to avoid to keep teeth looking white and beautiful.


Poor Dental Hygiene

The best way to stay on top of removing the stain-producing substances and plaque that cause lasting discoloration is to practice good dental hygiene. That means brushing at least twice a day, flossing at least once a day at home, and visiting a UES Dentist for cleanings twice each year.

Some stains caused by food, drinks, and other environmental contaminants can’t be removed with brushing and flossing alone. That’s just one of the many compelling reasons the ADA recommends regular dental visits and professional cleanings.

Diseases, Treatments, and Medications

There are several diseases that affect the enamel and dentin of teeth that lead to discoloration. Inherited diseases impacting dentinogenesis, amelogenesis can affect the calcium and protein content of enamel, and metabolic diseases can cause changes in tooth color. If mothers suffer from certain infections or take certain types of antibiotics and other medications while they are pregnant, it can cause tooth discoloration in their children.

Certain treatments and medications can also cause discoloration. These include head and neck radiation, chemotherapy for cancer, the use of the antibiotics tetracycline, and doxycycline when prescribed to children under the age of eight. Some antihistamines, antipsychotics, and blood pressure drugs can also cause discoloration.

Consumption Patterns

Certain foods and drinks are known to cause staining. While it would be nearly impossible to avoid all the foods and drinks that cause stains, which include coffee, tea, wine, soda, and many types of fruits and vegetables, consumers can usually avoid severe discoloration by brushing regularly.

Tobacco cigarettes and chewing tobacco are both known to stain consumers’ teeth, as well. The only way to avoid this unpleasant side effect is to avoid consuming these tobacco products. Given how bad they are for consumers’ health, it’s a wise idea to avoid them.

Advancing Age

As consumers age, their outer layers of enamel wear away, exposing the yellow dentin beneath. A combination of intrinsic and extrinsic dental staining can compound this issue.

Professional teeth whitening can remove most intrinsic and extrinsic stains. If a patient’s enamel becomes severely worn, he or she might need to investigate other options. These may include porcelain veneers or tooth bonding, both of which dentists can perform right in their offices.

 The Bottom Line

It’s possible to avoid severe discoloration by avoiding tobacco products and certain foods, drinking plenty of water, brushing twice daily, flossing at least once at night, and visiting the dentist for professional cleanings twice a year. However, a certain level of staining and discoloration is unavoidable.

Those who want whiter teeth can ask their dentists about professional tooth whitening. In extreme circumstances, porcelain veneers or dental bonding may also be recommended, especially if the discoloration is due to advancing age or extreme enamel wear.