Causes of Tooth Discoloration

Mar 14, 2019 @ 09:00 AM — by Neil L. Starr, DDS
Tagged with: Cosmetic Dentistry

Composite image of before and after teeth whiteningTooth discoloration can occur for many reasons. It can even affect patients with excellent oral health. When your teeth are stained, it can make your smile lackluster and have a negative impact on your overall appearance.

Fortunately, Dr. Neil Starr offers a number of cosmetic dentistry treatments to brighten your smile at our Washington, DC practice, including teeth whitening, dental bonding, porcelain veneers, and more.

Here, our team explores the common causes of tooth discoloration and explains how to maintain your smile for years to come.

Tobacco Use

It is no secret that smoking and other forms of tobacco use can be harmful to your oral and overall health. The tar and nicotine in cigarettes can stain the teeth, giving them a yellow or brown appearance.

Certain Foods and Drinks

The standard American diet consists of several dark-colored foods and beverages. These can discolor the teeth over time. To keep your teeth white and bright, consume these foods and drinks in moderation:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Berries
  • Red wine
  • Tomato sauce
  • Soy sauce

Poor Dental Hygiene

When the teeth are not cleaned routinely, plaque builds up. Further, staining agents such as tea, coffee, and tobacco cling to the teeth, leading to tooth discoloration.

Certain Medications

There are certain drugs that contribute to tooth discoloration, such as antipsychotic drugs, antihistamines, and hypertension medications. There are also some mouth rinses that can stain the teeth, such as chlorhexidine.

Two antibiotics, tetracycline and doxycycline, are linked to tooth discoloration when given to young children. These medications do not affect adult teeth that have fully developed.

Diseases and Medical Conditions

Certain diseases, such as GERD or celiac disease, can damage tooth enamel. As a result, the teeth can eventually become discolored.

Furthermore, some medical treatments actually carry the risk of dental discoloration. Those who undergo radiation or chemotherapy can develop tooth stains.


As we get older, our tooth enamel wears thin. As a result, the underlying dentin is exposed. The natural color of dentin is darker than the enamel, which makes the teeth appear yellow.


Tooth discoloration can be hereditary. If your parents or grandparents have thicker enamel, you will be less likely to develop dental staining. If you have a family history of thin enamel, you are generally more prone to discoloration.

How to Treat Tooth Discoloration

Fortunately, you do not have to live with tooth discoloration. No matter what the cause, we can address tooth stains with cosmetic dentistry procedures.

The treatment recommended for you will depend on the cause of discoloration. For example, extrinsic stains that affect the outer layer of the teeth can be addressed with teeth whitening. Intrinsic discoloration, which reaches deep within the tooth structure, can be addressed with dental bonding, porcelain veneers, or all-ceramic crowns.

During a consultation at our practice. Dr. Starr can determine which treatment option is right for you.

Contact Our Practice for More Information

Are you self-conscious about your smile due to discolored teeth? Visit our practice to explore your treatment options. Call us at (202) 293-7177 or contact us online anytime.

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