What Causes Teeth Stains? By Mike Meek, DDS on February 15, 2018

Just about everyone is interested in improving the appearance of their smile, and one of the easiest ways to do so is by lightening the shade of the teeth. Stubborn dental stains are one of the most common cosmetic dentistry complaints. Despite regular brushing and flossing, the teeth are simply exposed to too many elements that can cause staining and discoloration. Over time, these factors can have a big impact on the color of the teeth. Many people would say their smile looks more gray or yellow than it does white. Teeth whitening treatment can improve the color of the teeth by up to seven shades. However, teeth whitening does not work for all dental stains. At 38th Street Dental, we determine the causes of teeth stains so that we can provide our Austin, TX, patients with a cosmetic dentistry treatment that will brighten their smile by meeting their unique dental needs.

Yellow teeth vs. those treated with teeth whitening

Foods and Beverages

The foods and beverages that the teeth are exposed to have a big impact on the color of the teeth. While it is unlikely that any food or beverage would stain the teeth after consuming it a single time, frequent exposure to deeply colored foods and beverages can cause dental stains to form. The foods that may alter the color of the teeth include tea, coffee, cola, red wine, and berries. Fortunately, teeth stains that are caused by foods and beverages only affect the outermost layer of the tooth, or the enamel, so these types of stains can be easily treated with professional teeth whitening.

Tobacco Use

Whether a person smokes or uses chewing tobacco, it is likely that their teeth will develop stains and discoloration. Even though nicotine is clear, when it combines with oxygen, it turns yellow. Over time, nicotine from cigarettes will be absorbed by the pores in the enamel and the teeth will take on a yellow hue. Chewing tobacco creates a brown juice that can easily stain the teeth and make them appear dull and brownish in color. Although stains caused by tobacco use can become pretty deep-set over the years, these are still extrinsic stains that can be removed with professional teeth whitening treatment.


There are certain medications that are known to discolor the teeth. Antibiotics containing tetracycline can stain the teeth, especially when given to children whose teeth are still developing. Other medications, including antihistamines and some medicines used to control high blood pressure, can also result in staining. Even fluoride, when used too frequently, can lead to white patches or spots on the teeth. Tooth stains that are caused by medication are classified as intrinsic stains because they affect the structure of the tooth and impact the color of the deeper layers of the teeth. Unfortunately, intrinsic stains cannot be addressed with teeth whitening treatments. However, other cosmetic procedures, such as dental bonding or porcelain veneers, can conceal these types of stains to improve the appearance of the smile.


As a person ages, the enamel may become worn down and more prone to discoloration and staining. As the enamel thins, the underlying layer of dentin will also begin to show through, giving the teeth a more dull, yellow appearance. Teeth stains that are a result of aging will respond to teeth whitening to some degree. However, to fully enhance the color and appearance of the teeth, patients may want to consider more extensive cosmetic dentistry treatments, such as porcelain veneers.

Contact Us

If you are dissatisfied with the color of your teeth, the cosmetic dentistry services offered at 38th Street Dental can give you the white, attractive smile you desire. Contact us at your earliest convenience to learn more about professional teeth whitening and other dental treatments that are effective for teeth stains. 

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The team at 38th Street Dental

38th Street Dental

38th Street Dental in Austin, TX, utilizes the latest proven technology to provide you personalized dental care. Dr. Meek and Dr. Tasch are members of local and national dental associations, including:

  • The American Dental Association
  • The Texas Dental Association
  • The Academy of General Dentistry
  • The Capital Area Dental Society

To schedule an appointment, call us at (512) 458-6222 or contact us online today!

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