Why do I have a black or brown spot on my tooth?

Brown or black spots on teeth can be caused by factors like cavities, dietary stains, decay, fluorosis, tartar, aging, and some medical conditions, with treatment ranging from whitening to dental procedures depending on the cause.

What causes black or brown spots on teeth?

Reasons for tooth discoloration range from purely cosmetic surface stains to a symptom of tooth decay or damage and can appear as blotches, lines, or small dots.
Image of a young woman hiding her teeth for the dark spots on teeth blog post.
Extrinsic tooth stains are spots that develop when staining elements from dark or acidic foods have penetrated the enamel of the tooth, giving the tooth a yellow, brown, or just generally dull appearance. Extrinsic stains can result from years of smoking or tobacco use, as well as a diet that includes a lot of acidic foods, like red wine, soda, coffee, and tea. These stains can usually be removed through cosmetic dentistry procedures like teeth whitening, dental bonding, or porcelain veneers.

Intrinsic stains, on the other hand, develop from within the tooth as the result of environmental or genetic factors. Medical conditions, certain antibiotics, excessive fluoride, or trauma to the teeth, as well as internal fractures or infected root canals, can all begin to manifest as tooth discoloration. The treatment for an intrinsic stain depends largely on the cause of it. A crown or filling may be sufficient, or a more intensive restorative procedure such as a veneer, dental bonding, or root canal surgery may be necessary.

Black or brown spots on teeth can result from a whole host of factors, but some of the most common are:

  • Fluorosis, or excessive fluoride intake, can cause brown pits on the biting surface of the teeth—especially the back molars—and discolor the enamel. Children are particularly prone to discoloration from too much fluoride. 
  • Tartar is the hard substance that results from plaque buildup on the teeth and can make the teeth appear brown or yellow. Tarter begins to appear near the gum line and must be removed by a dental professional.
  • Cavities discolor teeth in several ways. Cavities are caused by plaque that isn’t removed from a tooth and begins to destroy the enamel of the tooth, turning it brown. Secondly, a cavity eats through the enamel and exposes the tooth’s internal dentin, which is naturally darker than the outer surface of the teeth. The decayed portion of the tooth will also darken as it begins to die, causing a discolored spot.
  • Aging is another culprit for discoloration. As we age, the enamel of the teeth begins to deteriorate, exposing the underlying layers of yellow dentin and resulting in yellowish-brown spots.
  • Celiac disease can prevent tooth enamel from developing properly, resulting in translucent enamel or white, brown, or yellow spots.

Although dark spots do not always indicate a cavity—they may just be surface stains—you have no real way of knowing. If you spy a black or brown spot on a tooth, your first course of action should be to schedule an appointment with a dentist. Your dentist has the tools, training, and experience to determine what is causing your spot and how best to treat it.

Can brown or black spots be removed from teeth?

Black or brown spots that are not the result of a cavity can usually be removed through teeth whitening. Your best whitening option depends on the depth and severity of your staining. Surface stains that have not seeped beneath the outer layer of your teeth can often be treated with over-the-counter whitening products like toothpaste or strips. Deep extrinsic stains that have penetrated the enamel, however, require professional-strength whitening prescribed and applied by your dentist.
More extensive dental procedures will be necessary for removing black or brown spots that are the result of tooth decay or damage. Treatment may include a tooth filling or root canal to repair tooth decay or restorative procedures like crowns, veneers, or dental bonding to help cover stubborn staining and restore a clean, white surface.

How can I prevent brown or black spots on my teeth?

Prevention is the proverbial best medicine when it comes to avoiding black or brown spots on your teeth. Be sure to practice good oral hygiene, like brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least once a day. If possible, also brush your teeth, rinse your mouth, or drink water after eating or drinking. Avoid using nicotine products, and limit how many teeth-staining foods and beverages you consume.

Routine dental care should also be a priority. Twice-yearly dental cleanings and exams from a trained dental professional can help your dentist identify any potential areas of decay or staining, then recommend proper treatment to keep the area from worsening.

Dental Care at Dental Depot

Dental Depot provides comprehensive dental services—including cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry services—to patients of all ages. Whether you need to fill a cavity, erase surface stains with professional-grade whitening treatments, or create the smile of your dreams with veneers, we have you covered. A beautiful smile can change your whole outlook on life, and the team at Dental Depot is here and ready to help.

Dental Depot is committed to helping you keep your teeth clean and healthy for life. We believe exceptional dental care should also be affordable, accessible, and available for everyone in your family, no matter how hectic your schedule. With flexible scheduling, Saturday appointments, and even the option to schedule multiple appointments at the same time, Dental Depot makes it easy for you to receive the care you deserve. In addition to caring dentists and dental hygienists, our staff of experienced dental professionals includes periodontal specialists, orthodontists, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons, allowing us to provide a full range of dental services all at one convenient location.

To find your nearest Dental Depot location or to schedule an appointment, click here. Your best smile is waiting!

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