What’s Staining Your Teeth?

Everyone wants a bright, white smile. Unfortunately, many people struggle with stains on their teeth that can dull their smiles and make them self-conscious. While some stains are intrinsic and occur within the tooth, others are extrinsic and occur on the tooth’s surface. External factors cause extrinsic stains and can often be prevented or treated. Fortunately, there are several ways you can treat discolored teeth

What's Staining Your Teeth?

Food and Drinks

Certain foods and drinks can stain your teeth over time. Dark-colored foods and beverages, such as coffee, tea, red wine, berries, and tomato sauce, contain chromogens, which are pigment molecules that stick to the enamel of your teeth. Acidic drinks, such as soda and sports drinks, can also erode the enamel, making it easier for stains to penetrate. To prevent staining from food and drinks, it’s important to brush your teeth after eating or drinking, or at least rinse your mouth with water to remove any residue.

Tobacco Use

Tobacco use, whether smoking or chewing, can stain your teeth and cause other oral health problems. The tar and nicotine in tobacco products can penetrate the enamel of your teeth, causing yellow or brown stains. Tobacco use can also lead to gum disease, oral cancer, and other health problems. Quitting tobacco is the best way to prevent staining and improve your overall oral health.

Poor Oral Hygiene

If you don’t brush and floss your teeth regularly, plaque can build up on your teeth and cause them to appear dull and discolored. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that can lead to gum disease and tooth decay if not removed. Brushing twice daily and flossing daily can help prevent plaque buildup and keep your teeth looking bright and healthy.


As we age, our teeth naturally become more yellow and dull. This is because the outer layer of enamel on our teeth wears down over time, revealing the yellow dentin underneath. Additionally, as we age, our teeth can become more porous, making them more susceptible to staining from food and drinks. While aging is inevitable, there are steps you can take to maintain a bright smile, such as regular dental cleanings and professional teeth whitening.


Certain medications can cause tooth discoloration as a side effect. Antibiotics, such as tetracycline and doxycycline, can cause yellow or gray stains on developing teeth in children. Other medications, such as antihistamines, high blood pressure drugs, and chemotherapy drugs, can also cause tooth discoloration in adults. If you’re taking medication and notice discoloration on your teeth, talk to your dentist about your options.

Environmental Factors

Exposure to certain environmental factors can also cause tooth discoloration. Excessive fluoride, either through drinking water or toothpaste, can cause white spots or streaks on your teeth. Exposure to high metal levels, such as iron or copper, can also cause discoloration. If you suspect that environmental factors are causing tooth discoloration, talk to your dentist or a specialist in environmental medicine.

While some of these factors may be out of your control, you can take steps to prevent staining. If you’re unhappy with the color of your teeth, talk to your dentist about professional teeth whitening or other treatment options. You can maintain a bright, healthy smile for years to come with proper care.