Discolored Teeth Can Tell Many Tales

Today a bright, sparkling smile with white teeth and pink gums is a symbol of good health and beauty. Stained or discolored teeth and gums are cause for alarm and a trip to your dentist. However unpleasant they may be, stains can tell your dentist a lot about your health, past and present.

Intrinsic Teeth Discoloration

Intrinsic discoloration can occur during tooth development or later in life as a result of disease, medications, or trauma. A few of them are:

Genetic Disorders Causing Discolored Teeth

  • Enamel hypoplasia and hypocalcification are two conditions that can also make teeth vulnerable to additional staining throughout life.
  • Amelogenesis imperfecta causes enamel to be fragile and teeth may look yellow or brown and be more susceptible to surface stains.
  • Thalassemia and sickle cell anemia can result in blue, green, or brown stains.

Environmental Causes For Teeth Discoloration

  • Tooth decay demineralizes tooth enamel and eventually exposes the brown color of the dentin.
  • Excessive exposure to fluoride while teeth are developing can result in opaque white flecks on the tooth surface in mild cases or larger patches of hypoplastic enamel in more severe cases with brown staining.
  • Trauma resulting from blows to the teeth and abscesses can lead to death of the pulp and subsequent greyish discoloration weeks or months later.
  • Very old amalgam restorations can be associated with discoloration of the tooth.
  • Drugs such as tetracycline, used to treat acne, can lead to a yellow-green discoloration in the dentin, which eventually becomes a brown discoloration.

Extrinsic Teeth Discoloration

These discolorations have various external causes, many of which we can take steps to mitigate or avoid altogether.

  • Untreated dental plaque can become stained and lead to hardened calculus deposits. Calculus can be seen as grey, yellow, black or brown stains.
  • Tobacco use leads to yellow, brown, and/or black stains at the gum line thanks to the tar in the smoke.
  • Heavy coffee and tea drinkers often experience brownish, discolored teeth.
  • Exposure to iron, iodine, copper, nickel, and cadmium compounds can result in stains specific to each.
  • Some antibiotics can produce stains when they bind with calcium, iron and other elements.

It is wise to check with us to be sure stains do not signal a serious underlying problem. Although discolored teeth can be a cause for concern, more often than not the cause is harmless and can be remedied with proper dental care.


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