Tooth Discolouration


There are several reasons why teeth become discoloured, and these are generally characterized as; extrinsic, intrinsic, and age-related discolouration.

  1. Extrinsic discoloration occurs on the outer tooth surface, when the enamel is stained by coffee, smoking, cola, red wine, dark coloured foods and drinks.
  2. Intrinsic discoloration occurs if the dentin layer of the tooth becomes darker and more yellowish- brown, or gray. This can be caused by the following:
    1. excessive fluoride exposure when a child
    2. tetracycline exposure during your mother's second half of pregnancy while carrying you.
    3. tetracycline use before the age of eight.
    4. trauma to tooth/teeth when you were young.
  3. Age-related discoloration is usually due to both extrinsic and intrinsic features. Dentin usually darkens with time because it becomes thicker, and the tooth enamel stains with time and also becomes thinner with wear. This thinning allows the dentin discolouration to show through the enamel.

Some children are also born with a rare tooth problem called "dentinogenesis imperfecta," which causes a gray, purple or amber discoloration of the teeth.


Symptoms can range from white spot and lines on the enamel to yellowing or browning of the enamel. With thinner enamel, dentin discolouration most likely will be visible.


Tooth discolouration can be diagnosed simply by viewing the teeth.

Expected Duration:

Extrinsic discolouration may be removed by a professional teeth cleaning, however some stains are more permanent. Teeth whitening, bonding, porcelain veneers, and/or crowns can correct this discolouration.


Proper oral hygiene will help you to prevent extrinsic staining in most cases. Also, avoiding coffee, cigarettes, cigars, and other staining foods and beverages will help to prevent extrinsic staining. You should also visit your dentist and/or dental hygienist for regular professional teeth cleanings.

Intrinsic staining can be more difficult to prevent, and is dependent upon the health of your teeth. Try to prevent damage to the dentinal layer and pulp, by visiting your dentist for regular checkups and have routine dental procedures performed if necessary. Try to avoid fluoride overexposure.


Extrinsic staining can usually be treated by proper oral hygiene at least twice daily and after every meal. Other procedures to treat tooth staining involve: teeth whitening; bleaching of non-vital (teeth with pulpal injury) combined with a root canal; bonding; porcelain veneers; and crowns.

Calling the Dentist:

As tooth discolouration is a cosmetic problem, call your dentist if you are not pleased with the brightness of your teeth. Alterations in your child's tooth colour must be viewed by your dentist or child's dentist to determine the cause.


Extrinsic staining can be treated with the prognosis being good; while intrinsic staining is more difficult to treat.