What Causes Spots on Teeth and how can you Address Them?

Jamie J. Alexander on January 2, 2020

Have you wondered about tooth whitening to address spots on teeth? Have you tried it without success? The dental team at Dr. Jamie J. Alexander of Boynton Beach can provide you with the dental cleanings, whitening advice, the whitening treatment that is right for you, and/or another health-centered treatment you may need to give you the spotless smile you desire.

The truth is some discoloration and yellowish to brownish spots cannot be eliminated with over the counter tooth whitening products. To eliminate these types of discoloration a different type of treatment is needed.

What may have caused the discoloration you see in the mirror? What are your options based on the causes and permanence of the discoloration? These are questions you and Dr. Jamie Alexander can discuss to come up with the right solution.

What Causes Spots on Teeth?

Certain foods and beverages are a common cause of yellow to brown spots of various sizes. Many dark-colored food and beverages contain chemicals called chromogens that stain tooth enamel. Tooth whitening products are usually effective in removing food and beverage stains, but over time, if you are not whitening your teeth, with repeated staining, the stains can become permanent.

Tobacco products contain particles that stick to tooth enamel and stain it. These particles build up over time, becoming darker. Regular dental cleanings are important to remove the particles. The longer you wait between cleanings, the more difficult it is to remove them.

The sticky plaque that builds up on tooth enamel also needs to be removed with regular dental cleanings, or it becomes harder and more difficult to remove. A build-up of plaque contributes to discoloration. Smoking, diabetes, hormonal changes, certain medications, development of gum inflammation, other illnesses, and inadequate home care are all factors in the development of plaque.

The good news is that Dr. Alexander and his registered dental hygienist can provide the individualized treatment and home care recommendations to eliminate plaque, battle gum inflammation, and address other oral health issues such as dry mouth from medications.

Tooth decay (erosion of tooth enamel) causes teeth to appear yellowish-brown where erosion is weakening the enamel. As erosion advances, a cavity can develop that appears darker. If there are fine cracks in a tooth’s enamel, erosion and stains may make the fine cracks noticeable.

And then there is aging. As we age, teeth can become worn. Where the yellowish dentin underneath the whiter enamel is exposed, the spots appear yellow and are easily stained darker. Where teeth have ground against each other, you may see flattened opposing surfaces and discoloration on those surfaces. And, in general, as enamel thins, teeth can take on the appearance of being gray.

Tooth enamel varies due to genetics. Some people have harder enamel than others. Those with softer enamel are more susceptible to staining and acid erosion. Regular dental checkups and cleanings will keep you informed about the health of your enamel and changes in your oral health.

White spots may be present that bother you, too. They could be the result of enamel fluorosis from too much fluoride in your water or toothpaste while your permanent teeth were developing. A chalky white spot may be a spot where erosion of the enamel has just begun. Or, you may have defects in the enamel due to genetics, and this is known as “enamel hypoplasia.” Children and adults with enamel hypoplasia are more susceptible to enamel erosion where the defects occur.

Other Causes of Dental Discoloration and Spots on Teeth

Sometimes the cause of discoloration is the use of a mouth rinse containing chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride, the antibiotics tetracycline and doxycycline (administered before the age of 8 while teeth were still developing), antihistamines, antipsychotic drugs, and antihypertensive medications. A traumatic blow to a tooth that causes bleeding inside the tooth, can cause a tooth to appear yellower or grayer than surrounding teeth. This discoloration can last a lifetime. And dental treatments such as silver amalgam fillings may show through the enamel, making the tooth appear gray.

Tooth whitening products are not the answer for permanent stains, but there are dental materials that can be applied to teeth to cover the stains. As the Farmers Insurance commercials say, “We’ve seen just about everything, so we know how to cover just about anything.”

Dr. Alexander and his care team will be happy to explain the pros and cons of cosmetic bonding, cosmetic crowns, and porcelain veneers. The good news is these treatments will protect and strengthen teeth, as well as cosmetically treat them.

Treating Spots on Teeth at Boynton Beach Dentist

If you are new to our Boynton Beach dental practice, you should know that we are different than most. We provide cosmetic dentistry that is health-centered dentistry. Our goal is to help you achieve the beautiful smile of your dreams with fine dentistry that optimally functions and lasts. Dr. Alexander does very thorough examinations in which patients are involved. Consultations are longer than in most dental practices so there is plenty of unhurried time to talk about oral health circumstances and most appropriate options. We do not pressure our patients. We fully inform them and allow them the time they need to make decisions.

You will always feel genuinely cared for and respected. You will be in control.