What Makes Teeth Turn Black?
Teeth are normally white due to the calcium in the hard outer layer of teeth (enamel). But several things can discolor teeth. In general, black teeth develop due to extrinsic or intrinsic factors.
Intrinsic factors that cause black teeth involve internal problems inside the teeth. The discoloration exists on the inner layer of the tooth, known as the dentin layer.
Common causes of intrinsic teeth stains include:
- Cavities (dental caries) or dental decay
- Infections of the pulp, the inner soft-tissue layer of teeth that contains connective tissues, nerves, and blood vessels
- Tooth death
- Injuries that cut off or disrupt blood flow to teeth
- Tetracycline antibiotic staining
Extrinsic factors that contribute to the development of black teeth are related to outside, or external factors.
Common causes of extrinsic tooth stains include:
- Damage to tooth enamel
- Buildup of tartar due to poor oral hygiene
- Eating or drinking dark-colored food or drinks, like coffee, tea, cola, and red wine
- Taking certain medications or supplements, particularly those that contain iodine
- Using tobacco products
- Using certain toothpastes and mouth rinses that contain charcoal
- Silver sulfide-based crowns or fillings
You probably won’t notice any other symptoms if your teeth turn black due to extrinsic factors.
But teeth that turn black due to tartar buildup may be accompanied by gingivitis. This causes the gums to become red, tender, and swollen. If damage to the tooth enamel causes tooth discoloration, you may also experience tooth sensitivity.
If black teeth are due to intrinsic factors, like tooth decay or infection, you may also experience:
- Sensitivity to hold, cold, and sweet things
- Pockets of pus around the gum line
- Facial pain and swelling
- Gums that are swollen, painful, red, and bleed easily
When to See a Dentist
According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, a professional dental cleaning involves removing the surface build-up of plaque and tartar and polishing the teeth, thereby removing surface stains.
Always see a dentist if your teeth become discolored or black. Also talk to a dentist if you experience:
- Tooth or facial pain
- Swelling of the gums or face
- Gums that bleed or bleed easily
- Tooth sensitivity
- Pus around teeth
- Noticeable pockets between the teeth and gum line
If black teeth are related to an infection or decay and it is left untreated, they may become infected, resulting in tooth death or loss. You may also feel less confident and be less willing to smile if you have black teeth.
How Much Does it Cost to Fix Black Teeth?
The best treatment for black teeth depends on the underlying cause.
Treatments for teeth with black stains due to extrinsic factors include:
- Professional deep dental cleaning to remove tartar, which may involve the use of ultrasonic instruments. The average cost is between $100 and $900.
- Professional teeth whitening treatments that use solutions with high levels of hydrogen peroxide. The average cost is between $200 and $800.
- Discontinuing use of certain medications, toothpastes, mouth rinses, and tobacco products.
Treatments for tooth discoloration due to intrinsic factors typically involve dental restoration treatments, such as:
- Prescription fluoride mouth rinses — these restore enamel and reverse minor tooth decay. The average cost is under $20.
- Fluoride varnishes — a dental professional applies these over teeth to prevent further tooth decay and reverse minor decay. The average cost is between $20 and $50.
- Fillings — a dentist removes decayed portions of teeth and fills them with dental fillings. The average cost is between $200 and $400.
- Porcelain veneer — a thin, shell-like covering that is cemented to the front surface of a stained tooth. The average cost is between $500 and $2,000.
- Crowns — a dentist removes decayed or damaged portions of teeth and covers them with a cap made of porcelain, resin, metal, or ceramic. The average cost is between $800 and $2,000.
- Root canal treatment — a dentist removes the infected or dead pulp of the tooth, cleans and disinfects the inside of the tooth, and seals it. The average cost is between $500 and $1,500.
- Tooth extraction — a dentist removes the infected or dead tooth. The average cost is between $100 and $350.
Tips for Preventing Black Teeth
Tips for preventing black teeth from developing differ depending on whether you are trying to prevent staining, infection, or decay.
Tips for preventing tooth stains include:
- Limit consumption of dark-colored foods and drinks
- Use a straw when drinking coffee, tea, or soda
- Avoid using mouth rinses or toothpaste with hydrogen peroxide or charcoal
- Avoid using tobacco products
- Practice good oral hygiene
- Rinse the mouth with an antiseptic mouth rinse
- Chew whitening gum or use whitening toothpastes or mouth rinses
Tips for preventing tooth infection or decay include:
- Brush the teeth at least twice daily using a fluoride-based toothpaste
- Floss or clean in between the teeth at least once daily
- Limit snacking
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet
- Avoid or limit consumption of foods and drinks that are sugary, starchy, or stick to the teeth
- Drink tap water that contains fluoride
- Get regular dental checkups and cleanings
Teeth can become black due to extrinsic factors, like consuming dark-colored foods and drinks or using tobacco. Your teeth may also turn black due to intrinsic factors, most commonly tooth decay.
If your teeth become black you’ll need to visit the dentist for professional treatment. A dentist or dental hygienist can often whiten teeth with professional whitening treatments or deep cleanings. People who have tooth decay or infections may need fillings, crowns, or root canals.