Many people think that teeth discolouration means yellow stains caused by consuming certain foods and drinks, but this is only a part of it. In truth, discolouration can be caused by both external and internal factors. Here are the three main types of causes and the prevention techniques available for each.

Extrinsic Causes

The enamel, or outer layer of the teeth, is stained by something you consume. Examples include coffee, tea, wine, berries, and smoking. Creating an acidic environment in the mouth by not practicing good oral hygiene also makes the enamel more vulnerable to staining.


  • Use a straw when drinking beverages that can stain the teeth.
  • Drink or swish water after eating or drinking.
  • Brush twice a day and after meals, and floss every day to keep the acidity level low.
  • Get regular dental cleanings.
    • Intrinsic Causes

        The dentin, or inner structure of the teeth, gets discoloured due to factors that can be either controllable or uncontrollable:

        • Too much exposure to fluoride in early childhood, causing white spots on teeth.
        • Trauma such as a fall or sports injury during childhood that impacted a growing tooth while it was still below the gum. This may have damaged the enamel, which provides a white coating to the tooth, before it was fully formed.
        • A rare birth condition (dentinogenesis imperfecta) that some are born with, causing grey, amber, or purple discolouration on the teeth.
        • Use of antibiotics in the tetracycline family during childhood (causing discolouration in your teeth) or during pregnancy (potentially causing future discolouration in the child’s teeth).
          • Because intrinsic causes are largely uncontrollable, little can be done in ways of prevention- especially for adults. However, parents can avoid exposing small children to too much fluoride until the enamel is formed and fully coats the teeth.

            Time-based Causes

              Your teeth will naturally discolour as you age:

            • Dentin yellows over time while enamel thins, causing the yellow of the dentin to show through.
            • The more you age, the more foods and drinks you’ll consume that discolour teeth over time.
              • Prevention:

              • Wear nighttime applicances like mouth guards to avoid grinding and wearing down enamel.
              • Continue practising prevention techniques for extrinsic causes.
                • Even if prevention techniques are not available for all causes, there are treatment options to reverse or hide the effects of discolouration:

                • Bleaching- there are various ways to bleach your teeth. Dentists can do power bleaching that will whiten teeth within 30-40 minutes or give patients a weaker form of bleaching gel to be used at home, which will take 2-4 weeks for results. There are also over-the-counter whitening products that use bleach, such as teeth strips, but these are weaker than the bleaching gel that you can get from the dentist and won’t fit as well over your teeth. As a result, over-the-counter products will take longer to have a noticeable effect.
                • Laser whitening treatments
                • Crown or veneer- for intrinsic causes that are not reversible, patients can opt to get a crown or veneer to cover the tooth and hide the effects of discolouration.
                  • Teeth discolouration is not a medically serious issue, but it can have a large effect on your confidence. There are many options out there for people seeking treatment- your dentist is your best resource for determining which treatment is the best for you.

                    Teeth discolouration: causes, prevention, and treatment

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