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We all want those around us to see a healthy sparkle when we smile. However, if you have stained or discoloured teeth, you may feel embarrassed about showing off your smile. Maintaining a tight-lipped smile may mean you can’t relax in social situations and can stop you from being your true self. 

Staining and discolouration are common problems with several potential causes. Sometimes, lifestyle factors affect the appearance of teeth. Alternatively, dental trauma, illnesses, or medication could be the cause. 

If you’re self-conscious about staining and discolouration, there are ways to revitalise your smile. Understanding the root cause is helpful, as it allows you to find the right solution for your needs. 

This guide will explore the types and causes of staining and discolouration and identify the steps to maintain your smile and restore it to its former glory. 

Understanding the Types of Staining and Discolouration

To understand staining, it’s helpful to get to know the surface of your teeth better. Although your teeth may feel smooth, they are covered with microscopic pores, much like your skin. These pores often capture particles, bringing about staining. 

There are two types of stain or discolouration: extrinsic and intrinsic. 

  • Extrinsic discolouration: These stains affect your dental enamel, the outermost layer of your teeth. Staining here is typically caused by lifestyle and diet. 
  • Intrinsic discolouration: These stains affect the dentin, the layer under the tooth’s enamel. These stains could be caused by medication, illness, or dental trauma. 

What Causes Stained and Discoloured Teeth?

Some stains and discolouration are easily avoided with proper care, while others are unavoidable. 

Lifestyle and Diet

Smoking or chewing tobacco is a common cause of stains. Nicotine and tar are both culprits and can leave brown stains. 

There are also many stain-inducing foods and beverages. Anything that’s particularly dark has the potential to cause stains. Common offenders include tea, coffee, red wine, dark berries, spices, soy sauce, and dark chocolate.

Poor Hygiene

Without thorough dental hygiene, plaque can build up on your teeth. Not only will plaque harden to form yellow or brown tartar, but stains are more likely to cling to the surfaces of teeth that haven’t been brushed properly. 

Dental Trauma

If you’ve been in an accident and injured your mouth, it can leave lasting discolouration on your teeth. 

Dental Treatments

Although procedures like root canal treatment are there to save your teeth, in some instances, the infection may leave your teeth discoloured. Amalgam fillings can also cause your teeth to appear grey. 


Dental enamel becomes thinner as you age. The darker dentin layer below shows through when this white layer weakens, giving your smile a yellow tint. 


Your parents influence the appearance of your smile. You may have inherent traits affecting your smile’s translucency, colour, and brightness. 

Illness and Medication

Certain health problems and medications can cause staining. For instance, celiac disease, liver problems, eating disorders, calcium deficiencies, and metabolic diseases can impact your smile. Blood pressure medications, antibiotics, and antihistamines may also cause discolouration.

If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, this can also lead to discolouration. 

How Can You Tell What’s Causing Staining?

Certain colours may indicate a particular cause. For example: 

  • If your teeth are yellow, the cause could be something you’re eating or drinking, poor oral hygiene, or a combination of both.
  • Brown teeth are often caused by smoking while pitting, which may indicate tooth decay. 
  • If your teeth are purple, it may indicate you drink red wine frequently. 
  • Grey teeth indicate dental trauma or a previous dental infection. The nerve inside your tooth may have died. 
  • Black spots usually mean you have advanced tooth decay. 
  • If you have white spots, you may have fluorosis. This may be because you consumed too much fluoride as a child. 

How Are Stains and Discolouration Treated?

Although the colours of your teeth can tell us more about potential causes, we’d always recommend a full examination to create a treatment plan. We can use the following treatments for removing stains and combatting discolouration:

Dental Hygiene Treatments

A visit to our hygienist will remove hardened plaque and tartar, leaving you with a fresh smile. We use treatments like scale and polish to break down stubborn tartar and give your smile a deep clean. Regular hygiene appointments are also a chance to learn more about how to care for your teeth, gums, and jaws. 

Teeth Whitening

We prescribe Enlighten, a professional at-home whitening treatment that uses hydrogen peroxide to break down deeply embedded stains. The process takes place gradually over two to three weeks from the comfort of your home. It’s safe, and we’ll assess your smile before treatment to ensure it’s right for you. 

Composite Bonding

Sometimes, whitening treatments and hygiene appointments cannot remove stains and discolouration. If you have deep intrinsic discolouration from trauma or dental infections, you could improve the appearance of your teeth with composite bonding. 

Composite bonding uses a tooth-coloured resin that’s applied directly to the area of your teeth you’d like to improve. Once in place, we’ll blend the resin in and use a special light to harden it. This treatment is quick, simple, and produces natural and effective results. 


Badly stained and discoloured smiles can get a complete makeover with porcelain veneers. We use tooth-coloured shells to cover the fronts and sides of your teeth. These custom-made veneers match your smile seamlessly and hide other problems like chips and cracks. 


If discolouration results from severe decay, we can restore the tooth using dental crowns. These are porcelain caps that cover the entire tooth. Once in place, your made-to-measure crown will protect the tooth, covering it and making it look perfectly natural. 

What Can I Do To Prevent Staining and Care for My Smile?

Although there’s nothing you can do to prevent dental trauma or the damage caused by certain illnesses and medications, there are steps you can take to prevent extrinsic staining. These include: 

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Use a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste for two minutes when you wake up and before you go to bed. Brushing after meals is also useful, particularly if you’ve consumed something that could leave stains. 
  • Floss between your teeth every day. 
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Quit smoking, vaping, and chewing tobacco
  • Eat or drink less stain-inducing foods and beverages like coffee, tea, red wine, and cola. 
  • Make regular hygiene appointments and visit us for a checkup every six months. 

Treating Stained Teeth at Headingley Dental care

Staining and discolouring may seem inevitable, but you don’t have to live with a tainted smile. At Headingley Dental Care we’ll help you care for your smile with proactive support and various treatments to restore your sparkle. 

Contact us today to book your next appointment.

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