Common Causes for Stained Teeth

Many people desire a brighter, whiter smile. A white smile can increase your confidence and self-esteem. Additionally, many people want to leave a lasting impression, so they whiten their smiles before big life events. To get a white smile, you will likely need to remove internal or external stains. But, what causes tooth discoloration in the first place? 

Having discolored teeth is a common cosmetic complaint. There are many types of whitening options that depend on the reason behind the discoloration. Having a consultation with Dr. Sinclair can help determine the cause of your tooth discoloration and determine the best treatment option. 

comparison of a woman's smile before and after a whitening treatment and teeth correction discolored teeth cosmetic dentistry dentist in Virginia Beach Virginia

Poor Oral Hygiene

Poor oral hygiene is one of the leading causes of discolored teeth. When we fail to brush and floss our teeth regularly, plaque and bacteria build up on the teeth. Unfortunately, this can cause stains and discoloration. Over time, this can lead to yellow or brownish teeth, which can be difficult to remove with regular brushing. 

Additionally, poor oral hygiene can put you at risk for several dental problems that can damage your oral health. For example, plaque buildup can increase your chances of developing tooth decay or gum disease


Certain foods and drinks can cause discoloration. Some of the most common culprits include many of our favorite drinks and snacks. For example, coffee is a huge contributor to stained teeth. Along the same line, many teas and red wine can leave behind stubborn surface stains. Dark-colored fruits and vegetables, such as berries or beets, can also stain your teeth. These foods and drinks contain pigments and compounds that can stick to the teeth, causing staining and discoloration.

Tobacco Use

Tobacco use, whether through smoking or chewing, is a major cause of teeth discoloration. Nicotine and tar found in tobacco products can penetrate the enamel of the teeth. Unfortunately, this can cause yellow or brown stains that are difficult to remove. Not only can tobacco use create discoloration, but it can also damage your oral and overall health. 


As we age, our teeth naturally begin to yellow and darken. This is because the enamel on our teeth wears down over time, revealing the yellowish dentin underneath. Additionally, as we age, our teeth may become more porous, making them more susceptible to staining.


Certain medications can cause teeth discoloration as a side effect. For example, some antibiotics, antihistamines, and antipsychotic drugs can cause yellow or gray discoloration of the teeth. In addition, certain medical treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also cause teeth discoloration.


Some people are more prone to teeth discoloration due to genetics. This is because they may have thinner enamel or naturally darker dentin. Unfortunately, this can make their teeth more susceptible to staining and discoloration. Even if you have a good oral hygiene routine, you can still have stubborn stains that chemical whitening treatments cannot improve. 

Dental Trauma

Trauma to the teeth, such as a fall or impact, can cause discoloration. This is because the trauma can cause damage to the tooth’s nerve, which can lead to discoloration over time. If you have bleeding deep within your tooth, you can see the effects on the surface of your teeth. Unfortunately, these types of stains can be difficult to whiten.