Dentistry
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Updated on January 25, 2023
7 min read

Brown Spot on Tooth

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An essential part of practicing good oral hygiene is avoiding and keeping watch of brown spots on the teeth.

Brown spots on the teeth can be noticeable or subtle. They differ in shades, from almost yellow to dark brown. They can appear irregular in shape or nearly uniform. Some brown spots look patchy, while others resemble lines. 

Usually, brown spots signal poor oral hygiene. They may also suggest health concerns, like celiac disease.

Brown spots on the teeth can also be an early warning sign of cavities. If brown spots come with gums that bleed or feel sore consistently, it is best to speak with your dentist. Learn about the safest ways to whiten your teeth.

What Causes Brown Stains on Teeth?

Brown spots and other discolorations have various causes, including:

Dental Fluorosis 

Fluoride in water protects teeth, but excessive amounts can lead to dental fluorosis.

When you experience high fluoride intake, you may form fluorosis. This usually develops in children’s gum lines while their teeth are forming. Fluorosis is typically mild and looks like white, lacy markings.

Fluorosis can cause enamel hypomineralization, leaving teeth potentially weaker. This condition can ultimately cause tooth decay. 

When fluorosis is severe, the tooth enamel becomes pitted, leading to brown spots. However, severe fluorosis is rare. 

Dark-Colored Foods and Drinks

Many dark-colored food and drinks have chromogen chemicals, which cause tooth discoloration.

Chromogen chemicals can leave marks on enamel. In time, these stains can become permanent, mainly if the individual follows poor dental hygiene. Foods and drinks with artificial colors and dyes can also result in significant teeth staining.

Foods and drinks that are known to cause staining include:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Red wine
  • Cola
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Pomegranates 

Tooth Decay

Plaque and tartar bacteria feed on the sugars that pass through the mouth. They also create acids that weaken enamel. The thick, filmy composition of plaque and tartar leads to these acids sticking to the teeth.

As the acids weaken the enamel, the tooth’s yellow layers below become more visible. The teeth may then look yellowish-brown. If the decay is serious enough, the acids can create a hole or cavity in the tooth.

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This hole or cavity will be darkly colored and range from a brown to a yellowish hue.

Tartar Buildup

The thousands of bacteria thriving in the mouth combine with food and saliva to create a sticky, translucent film called plaque. 

When you don’t remove plaque from your teeth regularly, it can harden into tartar. Tartar can differ in color from yellow to brown and develops along the gum line.

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Aside from poor dental hygiene, the following factors can increase the risk of forming tartar:

  • Nicotine use (smoking, chewing tobacco, cigars)
  • Being very ill, bedridden, or immobile
  • Diabetes
  • Hormonal shifts, such as those that occur during pregnancy, puberty, and menopause
  • Medicines that reduce the levels of saliva in the mouth, like nerve blockers or management medications for AIDS

Enamel Hypoplasia

Enamel hypoplasia is when genetic or environmental factors cause teeth to have less enamel than required. The condition can affect one or more teeth. It often appears as rough-textured, brown, or yellow spots. 

Enamel hypoplasia can result from:

  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Maternal illness
  • Malnutrition during pregnancy
  • Exposure to toxins

Root Canal

A tooth that requires a root canal may turn and stay brown. This is because the dead nerve from the tooth has darkened, changing the tooth’s color.

root canal procedure NewMouth

Tooth Trauma

The tooth's nerve may get damaged due to trauma to the mouth. As a result, your tooth may get brown patches or completely turn brown.

chipped tooth

Nicotine & Tobacco Products

Nicotine and tobacco products contain particles that stain the teeth. 

The following products can cause dark stains: 

  • Chewing tobacco
  • Cigarettes
  • Pipe tobacco
  • Cigars
  • Vapes and e-cigarettes

Old Dental Restorations

Old dental restorations can also lead to surface stains, making the teeth appear brown. Most fillings, crowns, and bridges will eventually lose their color.

Metal fillings can transfer color to the tooth, while white fillings can accumulate stains over time.

Certain Medications

Certain medications can stain teeth. This is more likely to occur in young children or children with mothers who took these medications during pregnancy.

Some antibiotics, like tetracycline and doxycycline, can cause brown spots on teeth. Glibenclamide may also result in stained teeth. This is a medication for permanent neonatal diabetes mellitus.

Genetic Factors

Some people naturally have bright white teeth, while others may have slightly yellow or beige teeth. Genetic disorders, like dentinogenesis imperfecta, may also lead to brown-yellow spots on the teeth.

Everyone has a different natural tooth color. Other genetic factors of teeth include:

  • Tooth enamel’s strength
  • Amount of damage the enamel is exposed to
  • Enamel’s response to acids and pigments
  • Hereditary conditions, like dentinogenesis imperfecta
  • Developmental conditions that affect proper bone and tooth formation

Celiac Disease

Dental enamel defects sometimes result from celiac disease. Brown spots on the teeth are common among people with celiac disease, especially children.

Other oral symptoms of celiac disease may include:

There may also be proof of squamous cell carcinoma. This is a type of skin cancer in the mouth or pharynx.

Natural Aging

As people age, it is normal for their teeth to darken or become spotty. This may result from various factors, such as surface staining and darkening dentin.

The enamel that covers the tooth's outer layer will also thin out as you age. Enamel loss causes teeth to appear darker and discolored.

How to Prevent Brown Stains on Teeth

Good oral hygiene will keep your teeth white, bright, and free from brown stains. Here are other tips to prevent tooth discoloration:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss daily
  • Stop smoking
  • Watch what you eat and drink 
  • Always brush your teeth 10 minutes after eating or drinking items that stain your teeth
  • Use a fluoride-based mouthwash daily 
  • Add calcium-rich foods to your diet 
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks, including hard candies, soda, and desserts
  • Eat foods rich in roughage or fiber, such as green, leafy vegetables
  • Consult with your dentist about habits that cause tooth discoloration

How to Remove Brown Stains on Teeth

There are various ways to remove brown stains on teeth.

At-Home Treatment Options

At-home teeth whitening products and treatments can help remove surface stains. Remember that not all tooth discolorations respond to whitening treatments. Speak with your dentist before investing in them.

At-home whitening treatments include:

If you choose one of these over-the-counter treatments that promise pearly whites, you must follow the instructions on the products to use them effectively.

Remember, whiteners are not permanent. You must use them consistently to achieve the desired results. However, be sure not to overuse them as they may affect tooth enamel and increase sensitivity.

GLO, Snow, and AuraGlow are effective and reputable LED teeth whitening kit brands.

GLO Brilliant Deluxe Teeth Whitening Device Kit

Professional Treatment Options

There are various professional treatment options to help remove brown tooth stains. These treatment options include:

Dental Bonding 

Dental bonding when a dental professional applies a composite resin material directly onto the stained area. Once cured, the resin hardens into a protective coating.

Crowns and Veneers 

A crown is a cap placed over the entire visible portion of a tooth. A veneer is a thin piece of porcelain bonded to the front of a tooth. Both crowns and veneer work well if the tooth’s underlying structure is sound.

Sealant 

A sealant is a clear plastic material applied to the chewing surfaces of molars and premolars. It helps protect against cavities by filling up pits and fissures.

Dental prophylaxis

Dental prophylaxis involves cleaning the teeth thoroughly using special tools and techniques. This process removes plaque buildup and reduces bacteria that can cause tooth decay.

Professional Whitening Treatments

Professional whitening treatments can also be very effective at removing brown stains. They sometimes require various visits to a dentist’s office. 

Results from in-office professional whitening procedures usually last around three years. Healthy oral hygiene habits may extend your results.

Other types of procedures to remove teeth stains include:

  • Dental prophylaxis
  • Chairside whitening
  • Power bleaching
  • Composite bonding

Brown stains or spots may cause you to feel self-conscious, but fortunately, there are many ways to fight these unwanted marks. The sooner you speak with a dentist, the sooner you can be on track to having a bright, white smile.

Summary

Tooth discoloration is caused by several factors, such as genetics, age, lifestyle choices, and even medications. 

Understanding how to treat this problem can prevent it from worsening. Sometimes, failure to address tooth discoloration could lead to more severe problems.

Last updated on January 25, 2023
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on January 25, 2023
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. Dental Caries (Tooth Decay) in Adults (Age 20 to 64).” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 2018.  
  2. Dental Enamel Defects & Celiac Disease.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2014.
  3. Dentinogenesis imperfecta.” MedlinePlus, 2017. 
  4. Kumar, Arun, et al. “Drug-induced discoloration of teeth: an updated review.” Clinical pediatrics, 2012.
  5. Jackson, Brooke A, and Cierra D Taylor. “Sudden Onset of Tooth Discoloration.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 2019.
  6. Masterson, Erin E, et al. “Shades of Decay: The Meanings of Tooth Discoloration and Deterioration to Mexican Immigrant Caregivers of Young Children.” Human organization, 2014.
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