Written by Dr. Smriti Bhanot, BDS, MDS (Prosthodontics) | 
Medically Reviewed by dr. simi paknikar, MD on May 14, 2014

Causes of Tooth Discoloration

Various factor scan result in tooth discoloration. The causes of tooth discoloration are divided into two broad categories, intrinsic and extrinsic.

There are a variety of factors which can result in tooth discoloration. The causes of tooth discoloration are divided into two broad categories, intrinsic and extrinsic. As the name suggests, extrinsic causes of tooth discoloration affect the tooth on the outside and are therefore surface stains. These are generally due to dietary and environmental factors. On the other hand, intrinsic factors alter the tooth color from the inside.

Intrinsic factors:

Dental fluorosis

Dental fluorosis is caused do to consumption of a very high level of fluoride especially in the drinking water, during the developmental stages of a child’s teeth.


Damage to the pulp will cause break down of blood vessels that could result in discoloration of teeth from the inside.


Tetracycline is an antibiotic that can form complexes with the calcium that is present in our bones and teeth causing discoloration. As the permanent teeth continue to develop until 12 years of age, tetracycline administration should be avoided in children below this age and in breast-feeding and expectant mothers.

Dental fillings

Certain filling materials such as dental amalgam due to their intrinsic metallic color can cause the overlying tooth structure to appear grayish black.


As age advances, due to wear and tear of teeth, the overlying layer of enamel becomes thinner resulting in greater amount of dentine showing through, thereby making our teeth appear more yellow.

Genetic factors

All individuals are born with different shades of teeth and therefore some of us are just born with slightly more yellow teeth than others.


A variety of systemic disease such as dentinegenesis imperfect, erythroblastosis fetalis, alkaptonuria etc. can cause tooth discoloration by affecting the development of teeth.

Extrinsic factors:


All tobacco products whether smoked or chewed have the ability to cause resistant staining of our teeth that is very difficult to remove.

Food and beverages

There are a variety of foods and beverages that can stain your teeth. Some of the most common are tea and coffee, red wine, Indian spices such as turmeric, candies and popsicles which can penetrate the superficial layer of enamel causing staining of teeth.

Mouth rinses

Chlorhexidine mouth rinses, when used for an extended period of time, can cause yellow brown discoloration of teeth.

Oral hygiene

Chromogenic bacteria, that is, bacteria that have the ability to produce pigments, may grow in plaque if adequate oral hygiene is not maintained.


  1. Tooth Whitening/Bleaching: Treatment Considerations for Dentists and Their Patients ADA Council on Scientific Affairs September 2009.
  2. J.E. Dhal; Tooth Bleaching-a Critical Review of the Biological Aspects;Critical Reviews in Oral Biology & Medicine, July 2003; vol. 14, 4: pp. 292-304.
  3. Howard E. Strassler, Vital Tooth Bleaching: An Update ;University of Maryland Dental School
  4. A Watts & M Addy Tooth discolouration and staining: Tooth discolouration and staining: a review of the literature; British Dental Journal 190, 309 - 316 (2001).
  5. C J Tredwin, S Naik, N J Lewis & C Scully: Hydrogen peroxide tooth-whitening (bleaching) products: Review of adverse effects and safety issues: British Dental Journal 200, 371 - 376 (2006).
  6. Baratieri, Luiz Narciso; Ritter, André Vicente; Monteiro Jr., Sylvio; Caldeira de Andrada, Mauro Amaral; Cardoso Vieira, Luiz Clóvis: Nonvital tooth bleaching: Guidelines for the clinician: Quintessence International. Sep1995, Vol. 26 Issue 9, p597-608. 12p.


Imayavaramban Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Do using lemon for tooth whitening cause any problem.....??

rrrajaa Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hi imaya, using lemon cannot be supported as it can cause erosion of the Dental enamel as it contains citric acid, which even can cause gastritis in person who are having acidity.

vaishali9524 Thursday, May 15, 2014

What is the average cost of in-office tooth whitening??

drraja Saturday, May 17, 2014

The basic fee is around 10,000 INR and more over it varies,

View More Comments

Most Popular on Medindia