Five main causes of teeth darkening/discolouration

Five main causes of teeth darkening/discolouration


The staining is normally on the surface of the teeth, or in small imperfections within the tooth surface. These rough areas also include deposits of calculus or tartar which accumulates over time. Many foods and drinks cause staining. The main culprits are red wine, curry (especially those with turmeric), tea and coffee. There are lots of other foods can cause staining/darkening of teeth. Of course, Smoking also causes staining. Certain mouthwashes (e.g. many of the ones containing Chlorhexidine Digluconate) can increase the amount of staining on teeth.

Pulp shrinkage

Over time as the teeth are used, they wear down slightly. The nerve inside the tooth shrinks away by creating extra dentine in the depths of the tooth. This means that over time there is less enamel (which is white) and more dentine (which is yellow), so teeth darken. This is a natural process, but there are safe ways to renew the appearance.


Gum recession exposes the root of the tooth which is not covered with white enamel, so the necks of teeth always look darker.


Restorations can make teeth look darker. Amalgam fillings are silver/grey and so can create a grey appearance to the tooth they are in. White composite fillings can make the tooth look discoloured, particularly if they are leaking and allow staining to seep in around the edges.

Rarer causes

There are a number of rarer causes including Tetracycline staining, liver disease, blood disease, fluorosis, hypoplasia, trauma, tooth death, decay, heavy metal discolouration. If we explained each of them it would make the report very long, and it's really your dentist's role to make the diagnosis and suggest suitable treatment for it. The images show examples of Tetracycline staining, fluorosis, tooth/pulp death.

Not all discolouration problems are due to the same cause, and so they need to be addressed in different ways. One size does not fit all!

Why should I whiten my teeth? Why should I care about the colour of my teeth?

Some people are not really too bothered by the appearance of their teeth, but most of us are. Studies show that other people's perception of us is influenced by our teeth and our smile. Brighter teeth give a more youthful appearance, and we all want to try and stay young! Sometimes nature needs a helping hand.

Others will judge us based on our appearance. We all know that a major part of the first impression we make is from our smile and state of our teeth. So if you want to have a smile you are proud of then tooth whitening is a proven method that may be suitable for you.

Our dental clinic in Emsworth offers tooth whitening and has a wealth of experience in different systems. Our team have carried out post-graduate training in tooth whitening to ensure we can offer care which puts your health and well-being at the core of everything we do. Being a Gold Member of the British Dental Bleaching Society has helped me ensure that all those at my practice are providing treatment to high standards and treatment that the profession would consider to be best practice.

If you are interested in whitening or any of our services then do call our reception team on 01243 375588, or email on