Brown Spots on Teeth: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention
by Dr Richard Barry
The appearance of brown spots on someone’s teeth is very common. While most people refer to such irregular colored patches on one’s teeth as spots, these brown spots can also appear as brown lines or irregular, mottled areas.
Brown spots on teeth can range in appearance from yellowish light brown to dark brown. Discoloration, while always astray from white or white-yellow, is never uniform. Sometimes the spots might be closer to the color of chocolate or coffee, and in certain cases, they can look dark brown or nearly black.
Many people have experienced this discoloration of the teeth, and it is not the fault of the person experiencing discoloration, however, it can indicate damage or tooth disease. Therefore, seeking out a dentist for professional advice is recommended.
Brown spots might also be referred to as “stains” on teeth. But not to fear, stains are not always permanent when referring to dental care. In many situations, discoloration and brown spots can be treated.
Causes of Brown Spots on Teeth
There are many factors that can lead to the discoloration of the teeth.
Food/drink consumption. Enjoying dark-colored, sugary, or starchy foods is part of life’s joys. Occasionally, consuming such foods can cause staining of the enamel. Drinking excessive coffee, tea, soda or wine can cause brown spots to appear. Foods high in sugar, such as candy or soda, and foods high in starch, such as potatoes and pasta, can also stain or chip away at the enamel. Dark berries can stain teeth and highly acidic citric juices might also damage the enamel on teeth.
Tartar build up. Plaque, or tartar, is a build-up of food particles, bacteria, and saliva in the mouth. While this build up is normal, it is typically reduced through brushing one’s teeth and flossing. These important daily habits prevent excessive tartar build up. When plaque is not continuously removed via oral hygiene, tartar can cause brown spots and discoloration. Controlling tartar buildup is more challenging if someone is having hormonal changes (like in pregnancy), has severe illness, is bedridden, has diabetes, or has AIDS.
Tooth decay. When a person is unable to prevent tartar buildup or obtains a tooth infection, tooth decay can occur. This is the process of enamel and tooth breakdown by acid-producing bacteria. Such decay can lead to brown spots and should immediately be evaluated by a dentist to prevent further damage or worse infection.
Fluorosis. Excessive fluoride can sometimes lead to brown spots or streaks on the teeth, especially in children who are under 8 years old. This discoloration is most often mild and treatable.
Tobacco products. All products containing tobacco or nicotine can lead to discoloration of the teeth. Smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, using pipe tobacco, or smoking cigars can lead to particle build-up on the teeth that can cause brown spots.
Enamel hypoplasia. Some people naturally have less enamel protection than others, which is a condition called enamel hypoplasia. A deficiency in calcium, premature birth or birth injury, exposure to toxins, exposure to viruses, malnutrition, or genetics can lead to enamel hypoplasia. If a person lacks enamel, it is easier to obtain brown spots.
Medications. Occasionally, antibiotics, specifically Tetracycline, can lead to brown spots on the teeth. Antibiotics should never be stopped abruptly and should always be finished to their full course unless an allergy is discovered. Report any medication use to your dentist, and if a medication that could cause brown spots is reported, treatment for tooth discoloration can be arranged.
Aging. As people age, it is natural for teeth enamel to age, too. Such aging can lead to yellowing, and even browning of spots on the teeth. This is a harmless cause but can be treated.
Celiac disease or other gastrointestinal issues. Some gastrointestinal deficiencies and celiac disease can cause tooth decay or damaged enamel, also potentially leading to brown spots on teeth.
Treatments for Brown Spots on Teeth
Over-the-counter whitening strips or sticks. Be careful not to overuse whitening products because they might strip enamel when overused
LED Whitening kits that use LED lights to help whiten teeth
Daily brushing and flossing of one’s teeth. This is enhanced by using whitening toothpaste and regularly replacing one’s toothbrush
Brush one’s teeth every few days with a mixture of baking soda and water, on top of regular brushing and flossing routine
Sealing and composite bonding of one’s tooth enamel
The patients at Lifetime Dental Health in Columbus, OH are welcomed at any time for the above-mentioned professional teeth whitening or stain removal treatments.
Reasons to Seek Professional Treatment
Some patients might choose to seek out professional treatment for the benefits of having experts clean or remove stains from their teeth. The dental team at Lifetime Dental Health enjoys performing this smile-restoring task for our patients.
In other cases, it is important for patients to book an appointment to evaluate brown spots that are accompanied by tooth pain or sensitivity.
While brown spots are often harmless, if a person develops any of the below symptoms, they should consider seeking out dental care. These symptoms might be a sign of a tooth infection or tooth decay:
Tooth sensitivity, especially to hot or cold foods
Malodorous or unpleasant breath
Gum irritation, sensitivity, or pain
Canker or cold sores
If you would like professional treatment of teeth discoloration, or believe you might have a tooth infection,contact us here at Lifetime Dental Health. Our team will happily assess any brown spots or answer questions about your dental health at a dental clinic appointment.