Brown Spots on Teeth

erica medical reviewer
Medically Reviewed
by Dr. Erica Anand
Ellie Swain
Written by
Ellie Swain
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Evidence Based
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6 sources cited
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Why Do I Have Brown Stains on my Teeth?

Looking after your gums and teeth can help you avoid bad breath and tooth decay. It also prevents you from developing gum disease. 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 shade from almost yellow to dark brown. They can appear irregular in shape or nearly uniform.

Some brown spots may look patchy, while others may 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. Cavities require a dentist to fix them. Cavities may come with symptoms including tooth pain, sensitivity, or bad breath. If tooth decay becomes serious, it may result in gingivitis.

If brown spots come with gums that bleed or feel sore consistently, it is best to speak with your dentist.

What Causes Brown Stains on Teeth?

Brown spots and other discolorations have various causes, which include:

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 while their teeth are forming, below the gum line. Fluorosis is typically mild and looks like white, lacy markings.


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When fluorosis is severe, the tooth enamel becomes pitted, leading to brown spots. However, severe fluorosis is rare.  Teeth with fluorosis can be weakened due to the hypomineralization of enamel, leaving it potentially weaker than teeth with no fluorosis. This can ultimately cause tooth decay. 

Dark-Colored Foods and Drinks

Tooth discolorations, including brown, gray, and yellow marks, can result from what you eat and drink. Many dark-colored food and drinks have chromogen chemicals.

Like the tannic acid in red wine, chromogen chemicals can leave marks on tooth 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 staining of the teeth.

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 for long periods.

As the acids weaken the enamel, the yellow layers of the tooth 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 through the tooth.

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This hole or cavity will be darkly colored and range from a brown to a yellow hue. Even small breaks and cracks in the teeth can enable bacteria to enter and result in decay. Many people develop dark spots of decay surrounding the edges of dental fillings or crowns when bacteria has passed through the crevices.

Dental cavities are often uncomfortable and can be painful, especially when they are significant. Decay often results in root or nerve exposure, so these teeth are typically sensitive to cold or hot foods and drinks.

Tartar Buildup

The thousands of bacteria thriving in the mouth continuously combine with food and saliva to create a sticky, translucent film called plaque. When you do not remove plaque from your teeth regularly, it can harden into tartar. Tartar can differ in color from yellow to brown, and it develops along the gum line.

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We typically keep levels of plaque under control by brushing our teeth with toothpaste and flossing. Once tartar has developed, only a dental professional can remove it. 

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

Genetic or environmental factors can often cause teeth to have less enamel than required. This is known as enamel hypoplasia. 

Enamel hypoplasia can result from:

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

The condition can affect one or more teeth. It often appears as rough-textured, brown, or yellow spots. Those with enamel hypoplasia may have a rough texture on areas in their teeth.

Root Canal

When the pulp from one of your teeth dies and rots, you will require a root canal. A tooth that requires this treatment may turn and stay brown. This is because the dead root from the tooth has darkened, changing the color of the tooth.

endodontic root canal procedure steps

Tooth Trauma

Trauma to your mouth can lead to damage within a tooth’s nerve. This can result in the tooth developing brown spots or turning brown completely.

3d render of jaw with broken incisors teeth

Nicotine & Tobacco Products

Tobacco use is a common cause of surface stains developing on teeth. Nicotine is present in tobacco products, including:

  • Chewing tobacco
  • Cigarettes
  • Pipe tobacco
  • Cigars

Old Dental Restorations

Old dental restorations can also lead to surface stains, making the teeth appear brown. These old restorations can include metal, silver, or white fillings.

Certain Medications

Some antibiotics, like tetracycline and doxycycline, can stain teeth. This is more likely to occur in children with developing teeth. It can also result in children if their mothers took these medicines during pregnancy.

Glibenclamide may also result in brown spots on the teeth. This is a medication for permanent neonatal diabetes mellitus.

Genetic Factors

Tooth color varies from individual to individual and may be genetic. Some people naturally have bright white teeth, while others may have slightly yellow or beige teeth. There are also genetic disorders, like dentinogenesis imperfecta, that lead to brown-yellow spots on the teeth.

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

  • The strength of tooth enamel
  • How much damage the enamel is exposed to
  • How the enamel responds 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:

  • Dry mouth
  • Canker sores
  • Mouth ulcers
  • A very red, smooth, and shiny tongue

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 that develop over time, including:

  • Surface staining from food, drink, or tobacco
  • Darkening dentin. Dentin is a substance that borders each tooth and comprises the layer underneath the tooth enamel
  • Thinning enamel

How to Prevent Brown Stains on Teeth

Looking after your teeth will help keep them white, bright, and free from brown stains. Brush your teeth with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste twice a day and floss daily. One of the most effective things you can do to keep your teeth white and healthy is to stop smoking.

It is also essential to watch what you eat and drink. Always brush your teeth with toothpaste after eating or drinking items that stain your teeth. 


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Be sure to add calcium-rich foods to your diet, too. Calcium can help you avoid enamel erosion. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, including hard candies, soda, and desserts. Simple carbohydrates, including potato chips and white bread, transform into sugars in your body, so it is best to avoid them, too.

How to Remove Brown Stains on Teeth

There are various ways to remove brown stains on teeth.

At-Home Treatment Options

At-home whitening products and treatments can help to remove surface stains on the teeth. But, it is essential to know that not all tooth discolorations respond to whitening treatments. Before you invest, speak with your dentist.

At-home whitening treatments include:

  • Whitening toothpastes
  • Bleaching kits
  • Whitening strips
  • Whitening systems

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. They must be used consistently to achieve the desired results. However, be sure not to overuse them as they may affect tooth enamel.

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

GLO Brilliant Deluxe Teeth Whitening

Professional Treatment Options

There are various professional treatment options to help remove brown teeth stains.

Bonding can correct minor stains, while crowns and veneers can correct deeper stains. Sealants can help prevent stains in the grooves of permanent teeth and reduce the risk of tooth decay. 

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
  • Porcelain veneers
  • 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.


What's Next?

Resources

Dental Caries (Tooth Decay) in Adults (Age 20 to 64), National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIH), July 2018, https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/dental-caries/adults 

Dental Enamel Defects and Celiac Disease, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH), September 2014, https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/professionals/clinical-tools-patient-management/digestive-diseases/dental-enamel-defects-celiac-disease 

Dentinogenesis imperfecta, MedlinePlus, June 2017, https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/dentinogenesis-imperfecta/ 

Kumar, Arun et al. “Drug-induced discoloration of teeth: an updated review.” Clinical pediatrics vol. 51,2 (2012), https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21917545/ 

Jackson, Brooke A, and Cierra D Taylor. “Sudden Onset of Tooth Discoloration.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 12,10 (2019): 12-13, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6937148/ 

Masterson, Erin E et al. “Shades of Decay: The Meanings of Tooth Discoloration and Deterioration to Mexican Immigrant Caregivers of Young Children.” Human organization vol. 73,1 (2014): 82-93. doi:10.17730/humo.73.1.861831136642q074, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4537173/

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