What Causes Teeth Stains

What Causes Teeth Stains

October 01, 2017

What causes teeth stains?

There are two types of teeth stains: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic are factors that discolor your teeth from external factors, such as tobacco use, wine, soda, some foods, etc. Intrinsic discoloration is the result of interior parts of the tooth becoming darkened. Intrinsic stains are much deeper than extrinsic stains. Common causes are the use of tetracycline antibiotics, excess fluoride consumption, and trauma to the tooth.

Extrinsic Causes

Tobacco Use

Smoking and Tobacco use (of any kind) stains teeth due to the nicotine and tar in the tobacco. It can turn teeth yellow quickly after use. Heavy smokers teeth can become more brown over time. Nicotine itself is a colorless substance, but it turns yellow when mixed with oxygen. When inhaled, nicotine and tar settle into the oral cavity. They sip into microscopic openings in the enamel, resulting in teeth stains.

Tobacco use also negatively affects oral health. It can lead to bad breath, gum disease, tooth loss and mouth cancer.

Beverages: Wine (white & red), Coffee, Tea & Soda, Fruit Juices

Wine is acidic and acidity affects our teeth. Acidity dissolves teeth at the microscopic level. This makes the tooth’s surface more coarse (normally it is smooth) and more likely to acquire pigment. This is also what makes it possible for white wine to contribute to your teeth becoming stained. The pigment from red wine can more likely stain the teeth when coarse. Though white wine doesn’t have pigment, it contributes to your teeth becoming coarse and more likely to have pigment from other food and drink stain.

Tannins in wine can cause staining too. Tannin is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in plants wood, leaves, seeds and fruit skins. It’s a molecule that has a high binding capacity and binds to the tooth structure. It also grabs onto chromogens, a substance that can easily be converted into a dye or other colored compound.

Tannins from grapes are from the skin, stems, and seeds. Tannins are more likely to be found in red wine, although white wine can have it too depending how it was aged in wood barrels.

Like wine, coffee and tea also have tannins and pigment that can stain your teeth. The darker the tea, the more likely it will stain. Coffee is also acidic and certain teas can be too. Herbal teas are more likely to not be acidic.

Soda does not have tannins, but it does have pigment and is acidic. Fruit juices can also stain teeth due to their pigments and acidity.


The following foods can contribute to stains on the teeth: curry, berries, citrus fruits, tomato sauce, beets, cherries, balsamic vinaigrette, grapes, soy sauce and junk food/candies. One thing that most of these foods have in common is deep pigment. If it can stain your clothes, it might stain your teeth. Also, citrus, tomato sauce and junk food are all acidic and can contribute to making our teeth become more coarse and therefore more prone to stains.

Intrinsic Causes

Antibiotic Use

There are two ways tetracycline antibiotics can stain your teeth. First, your mother used it during the second half of her pregnancy with you. Second, you use tetracycline antibiotics when you were 8 years old or younger. These antibiotics can cause your teeth to have a grayish color.

Excess Fluoridation

Exposure to too much fluoride at a young age can stain teeth. This is one of the reasons why young children should not use fluoride toothpaste, especially those who cannot fully spit it out. This condition is called fluorosis. It can make your teeth have white lines/spots/streaks. In severe cases, it can cause teeth to be pitted and have black, gray or brown spots.

How does this happen? Your permanent “adult” teeth form under your gums in early childhood. The crowns of nearly all of your adult teeth are completely formed by the time you are 8 years old. Your permanent teeth can become exposed to too much fluoride when combined with fluoride toothpaste and fluoridated water.


Any kind of trauma to your teeth can cause discoloration. This can occur during childhood or adulthood. Trauma during childhood can cause damage to your adult teeth. Trauma that results in bleeding can cause internal blood to cause discoloration. Damage to a tooths nerve can stain teeth as well. Nerve damage can also happen from a root canal.


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