Top Causes of Tooth Discoloration By Michael Bixby on July 08, 2019

Before and after teeth whiteningFewer things detract from a beautiful appearance like stained, yellowed teeth. Fortunately, teeth whitening can address extrinsic stains and dramatically brighten your smile by several shades. Here, Dr. Michael Bixby, a Red Bank, NJ, dentist, explores the top causes of tooth discoloration.

Certain Foods and Beverages

Tea, coffee, red wine, colas, and other dark-colored beverages can stain the teeth over time. Certain foods, such as berries, potatoes, tomato sauce, and soy sauce, can also darken the enamel.

This type of discoloration is known as extrinsic staining, as it only affects the outermost layers of the teeth. Professional teeth whitening is extremely effective against this type of discoloration.

Tobacco Use

Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco can lead to dark dental staining. While teeth whitening does reduce the appearance of discoloration, staining will return unless you kick the habit for good.


There are certain diseases and medical conditions that can affect tooth enamel. When the enamel is compromised, the underlying dentin may become visible. Because dentin is yellow in color, the teeth can appear stained. While teeth whitening is not as effective for this type of discoloration, other treatments such as bonding or porcelain veneers can mask tooth discoloration.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Routine brushing and flossing remove plaque and stain-producing substances. When proper oral hygiene is neglected, patients are more prone to staining.

Teeth whitening can brighten the teeth. However, restorative treatments are often necessary prior to cosmetic work. If you have sustained damage due to decay or gum disease, Dr. Bixby can design a treatment plan to fit your unique needs.

Certain Medications

Some antibiotics, like doxycycline and tetracycline, can lead to tooth discoloration when administered to young children. There are also certain mouthwashes on the market that can contribute to staining, such as chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride. Research has also indicated that antipsychotic drugs, antihistamines, and drugs for hypertension can also cause dental discoloration.


As we age, tooth enamel becomes worn. Consequently, the layer of dentin underneath becomes more visible. This type of discoloration is referred to as intrinsic. Therefore, these stains do not respond well to teeth whitening. However, there are other cosmetic treatments that can deliver impressive results.

Dental Materials

At our Red Bank practice, we use tooth-colored restorations for natural-looking results. However, some older restorations, especially those containing silver sulfide, can cast a gray color on the teeth. To correct this, we can replace old fillings and restorations with tooth-colored ones.


Genetics affects your dental health as well as your overall health. By nature, some individuals have thicker, stronger enamel. Unfortunately, those with thin enamel have an increased risk of erosion and subsequent discoloration.


Falls, vehicular accidents, sports-related injuries, and similar traumas can cause internal bleeding in adult teeth. As a result of blood being trapped inside the tooth, discoloration can occur. Furthermore, trauma can disrupt normal enamel formation in small children.

Because these stains are considered intrinsic, teeth whitening is usually not recommended. However, Dr. Bixby can address the problem with alternative treatments.


Fluorosis is a condition characterized by white spots on the teeth. This is caused by excessive fluoride exposure, either from a natural source or extreme use of fluoride-containing products. Keep in mind, however, when used in moderation, fluoride can help remineralize and strengthen teeth.

Learn More about Teeth Whitening

Are you self-conscious about tooth discoloration? If so, schedule a consultation at our Red Bank practice. We can help you explore teeth whitening or any of our other cosmetic treatments. Contact us online or call us at (732) 224-1160.

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Dr. Bixby

Center for Advanced Dentistry

Dr. Michael Bixby has been providing comprehensive dental services to patients in the Red Bank area since 1998. He is proud to be affiliated with a range of prestigious organizations, including:

  • The Academy of General Dentistry
  • The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine
  • The Academy of Clinical Sleep Disorders Disciplines

For more information about our services, contact our practice online or call (732) 224-1160 to speak to a member of our team today.

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