Updated on March 8, 2024
2 min read

How to Deal with Extrinsic Tooth Stains

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What Are Extrinsic Stains?

Extrinsic stains, or surface stains, are the easiest to remove with whitening. These stains are often the result of exposure to certain foods, drinks, and tobacco products.

Brown Stain on teeth 3D Render

Unlike intrinsic tooth stains, these stains occur on the surface of the teeth. The pits and grooves in teeth can soak color from various tooth-staining substances, causing brown and yellow spots over time.

How to Identify Extrinsic Stains

Extrinsic stains are superficial discolorations on the teeth’s outer layers. They’re relatively easier to address compared to intrinsic stains that originate from within the tooth.

One way to differentiate extrinsic stains from intrinsic ones is their cause. Extrinsic tooth stains often develop over time, while intrinsic stains may be present since tooth development.

The stains’ response to teeth whitening treatments can also differentiate them from one another. Intrinsic stains don’t respond effectively to traditional whitening methods.

A visit to the dentist can also help determine the type of tooth stain. They can conduct clinical examinations, perform risk assessments, and monitor changes.

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What Causes Extrinsic Stains?

The most common foods and beverages that cause surface stains include:

  • Coffee
  • Dark tea
  • Dark soda
  • Red wine
  • Dark fruits
  • Fruit juices
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Dark chocolate

Tobacco use and smoking can also result in surface stains over time. Plaque and tooth decay can also cause teeth to appear yellow or brown.

What are the Treatment Options for Extrinsic Stains?

At-home in-office treatments are usually effective at removing extrinsic stains. They have bleaching agents that can brighten and whiten your teeth.

Illustrated comparison of a divided smile with healthy white teeth on the right side and yellowish coffee stained teeth on the left side

At-home treatments cover a range of teeth whitening products that brighten discolored teeth. These include:

In-office teeth whitening is also an effective way to address extrinsic stains. These teeth whitening treatments have more powerful bleaching agents. A dental professional oversees this treatment, making them safer.

Why Is Treating Extrinsic Stains Important?

Here are some reasons why it’s important to treat extrinsic stains:

  • Oral health ⁠— Regularly removing plaque and stains helps prevent oral health issues like cavities and gum disease.
  • Progression prevention ⁠— Proper oral health measures can slow or halt the progression of tooth discoloration.
  • Self-confidence ⁠— Treating extrinsic stains improves the appearance of your smile, enhancing self-confidence and well-being.

Consult your dentist for personalized advice on treating and preventing extrinsic stains.

Can Extrinsic Stains Be Prevented?

Yes, you can prevent extrinsic stains. Avoid or limit foods that can stain your teeth, and practice good dental hygiene.

Brush and floss your teeth twice daily to remove plaque and calculus deposits. You should also visit your dentist every six months for deeper teeth cleaning.


Extrinsic stains result from external factors like food, beverages, and tobacco use. These stains respond well to teeth whitening treatments and dental cleanings.

Removing extrinsic stains can help improve your overall dental health and self-confidence. It’s best to consult your dentist to learn more about treatments for tooth stains.

Last updated on March 8, 2024
5 Sources Cited
Last updated on March 8, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Tabassum A, Vidyapith, B. “Classification of tooth staining.” Journal of Clinical Dentistry and Oral Health, 2021. 
  2. Nathoo, S.A. “The Chemistry and Mechanisms of Extrinsic and Intrinsic Discoloration.” The Journal of American Dental Association, 2015.
  3. Khan et al. “Extrinsic stain removal with a toothpowder: A randomized controlled trial.” Int J Health Sci (Qassim), 2014. 
  4. Marya et al. “Modified extrinsic tooth stain index and its clinical applicability.” J Indian Soc Periodontol, 2023.
  5. “Whitening.” American Dental Association.
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