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Types of Teeth Stains: What Causes Them and What You Can Do About It

Medically reviewed by Grazielle Millo-Paderes, DDM, MSc · Dentistry · Unihealth-Parañaque Hospital and Medical Center

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jun 24, 2021

Types of Teeth Stains: What Causes Them and What You Can Do About It

People usually look at discolored teeth as a sign that a person doesn’t practice proper dental hygiene. While this might be one explanation, there are a number of different reasons as well as types of teeth stains. Read on to find out more about teeth stains, as well as what you can do about them.

What are Teeth Stains?

It’s not a secret that most people would want to have pearly, white teeth. It’s usually seen as a sign of good hygiene, and it’s aesthetically pleasing for a lot of people. This is also the reason why people spend a lot of money on tooth whitening products or dental procedures.

Teeth stains, as the name suggests, means having discoloration or “stains” on your teeth. People can have discolored teeth for a number of reasons, and in some cases, it’s actually okay and normal for a person to have some discoloration.

But what exactly causes discoloration, and what are the different types of teeth stains?

Types of Teeth Stains and Their Causes

There are two main types of teeth stains, which are extrinsic and intrinsic teeth stains. These affect a person’s tooth differently, and the causes and treatment for these types of discoloration are different.

Extrinsic teeth stains

Extrinsic means that the outside of the tooth or the enamel is affected by discoloration. This means that the inside of the tooth, or the dentin, is not directly affected by the discoloration. This can be seen as a yellow discoloration of a person’s teeth.

This is typically caused by consuming foods or substances that cause discoloration in the enamel.

These can include things such as:

  • Drinking a lot of coffee or tea
  • Drinking wine or cola
  • Smoking or using chewing tobacco
  • Eating food high in food coloring like hard candies or popsicles?
  • Having poor dental hygiene
  • Tartar build-up can also cause grayish discoloration of the teeth
  • Dental materials like amalgam can discolor the tooth as well as adjacent teeth

This also means that avoiding the things above can help lower the chances that you’ll have discolored teeth. Additionally, because they only affect the outside of the tooth, extrinsic teeth stains can still be fixed.

Additionally, extrinsic teeth stains are usually cosmetic. This means that they don’t pose any health risks, and removing the discoloration is usually done for aesthetic reasons.

Intrinsic teeth stains

In contrast, intrinsic teeth stains mean that the dentin or the inside of the tooth is discolored. This typically appears as a yellowish hue to the tooth.

Here are some of the possible reasons for intrinsic discoloration:

  • Too much fluoride during childhood
  • Chipping in the teeth
  • Certain types of medication, such as antibiotics
  • Natural discoloration due to old age
  • Trauma that killed the pulp where the nerves and blood vessels are

Dealing with intrinsic teeth stains can be more complicated compared to intrinsic teeth stains. This is because the discoloration doesn’t just affect the outside of the tooth, but the inside as well.

Whitening intrinsic teeth stains usually require different procedures and can be more expensive.

types of teeth stains

How Can You Remove Teeth Stains?

Removing teeth stains is typically done by a dentist. However, there are also some things that you can do at home to help whiten your teeth.

Here are some of the possible procedures that can be done to remove different types of teeth stains:

  • Using over-the-counter products such as tooth whitening creams.
  • Avoiding certain foods that can cause teeth discoloration.
  • Practicing proper dental hygiene such as brushing your teeth regularly and flossing.
  • Dentists can perform professional whitening which uses specialized procedures to whiten teeth.
  • Dental crowns essentially cover damaged teeth and can make them whiter.
  • Veneers use porcelain shells to cover a person’s teeth. However, they are fragile and can break if a person bites into hard foods.

When it comes to whitening your teeth, the best thing to do would be to talk to your dentist. They can best give advice on what you can be done to whiten your teeth in the safest way possible.

Learn more about Dental Conditions here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Grazielle Millo-Paderes, DDM, MSc

Dentistry · Unihealth-Parañaque Hospital and Medical Center

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jun 24, 2021

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