Tooth Discoloration

Tooth discoloration can include stains on the teeth that are yellow, gray, chalky white, or brownish in color. Discoloration may also refer to spots, lines, or stains on specific teeth.


Traits passed down from parent to child (heredity) play a role in the shade of your teeth and the thickness of the outer surfaces of your teeth (enamel). Proper oral hygiene also affects tooth color, even in infants. Age is also a factor in tooth discoloration. When teeth get worn away it exposes the second layer of the tooth (dentin) that is yellow in color.

Certain chemicals, supplements, or treatments can promote tooth discoloration. These include: 

  • Tobacco use (smoking or chewing).

  • Antibiotic medicines (tetracycline and doxycycline). Discoloration is more likely if a fetus is exposed to these medicines during mid-pregnancy. Discoloration is also likely if children up to 8 years of age are exposed to these medicines.

  • Mouth rinses that contain chlorhexidine and cetylpuridinium chloride.

  • Medicines such as antihistamines, antihypertensive drugs, and antipsychotic drugs.

  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy of the head and neck area.

  • Dental materials, such as amalgam.

  • Excessive fluoride.

  • Metals.

Diseases or trauma can play a role in tooth discoloration. These include:

  • Infections in the pregnant mother or in a baby.

  • High fever while teeth are forming.

  • Neonatal jaundice.

  • Nutritional deficiencies.

  • Anemia and blood disorders, such as porphyria.

  • Genetic disorders that affect tooth enamel or dentin.

  • Trauma to the mouth area.

  • Dental cavities.

  • Germs that stain teeth (chromagenic bacteria).

Dietary choices can also affect the color of your teeth. Certain foods can promote discoloration of the teeth. This is usually temporary, but over time may become permanent. These include:

  • Coffee.

  • Tea.

  • Soda (pop, cola).

  • Wines.

  • Foods and drinks with artificial color added.

  • Blueberries and other intensely colored fruit.


Your caregiver can help determine the cause of your tooth discoloration. Diagnosis may include:

  • An oral exam.

  • Taking a history of factors such as your diet, medicines, health and family history, fluoride exposure, and oral hygiene.

  • X-rays.

  • Further medical testing or referral to a specialist to confirm the diagnosis.


There are several treatment options for tooth discoloration depending on the cause and location. Treatment may include:

  • Daily oral hygiene. This includes proper tooth brushing and flossing techniques and professional cleanings every 6 months.

  • Limiting foods and liquids that stain the teeth.

  • Whitening products and procedures.

  • Bondings, veneers, or crowns.


  • Practice good oral hygiene such as brushing twice per day and flossing daily.

  • Follow up with your caregiver as directed.


  • Your teeth appear to be abnormal in color and you have concerns.

  • You have other symptoms such as pain.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.