Back To Blog

What Stains Teeth?

29 August 2017

Stained teeth can be a really embarrassing and uncomfortable problem, but by knowing what causes stained teeth and what can be done to minimise and even reverse the damage, it's not a problem you need to endure.

We'll take a look at some of the most common things that cause stains on teeth, things you can do to protect yourself from those problems, and some available remedies for removing stains.

Types of Stains

There are two main categories of stains that are divided into extrinsic stains (things that stain the surface of the tooth) and intrinsic stains (discolouration that occurs due to internal changes in the tooth).

Both of these two main categories are bad to have, but the extrinsic causes are easier to fix than intrinsic ones. Chemical compounds called tannins and chromogens normally cause extrinsic stains.


The really obvious culprit in causing stained teeth is tobacco, either by smoking or chewing the leaves.

The main chemical responsible for creating stains is nicotine, a powerful insecticidal compound found in plant leaves, and especially in tobacco.

Although nicotine is colourless, it turns yellow when oxidized. Nicotine particles that penetrate the surface enamel will cling there and turn yellow.


The next major stain-causing agent is tea. Loaded with tannins (the same stuff used to tan leather), it can stain your teeth brown.

The problem will be worse with high quality tea, because the low quality stuff contains more fillers and therefore less tannins. 


Coffee is often unfairly considered to be worse than tea because of its darker colour and association with other negative health effects, but in fact it's nowhere near as likely to cause dental stains as tea is.  

Red Wine

Red wine is another well-known staining agent, and that's because it contains tannins, chromagens, and acids.

That doesn't mean you get a completely free pass with white wine, because that contains substances that can make it easier for other agents to stain your teeth, but red wine is certainly much more likely to cause direct staining. 


Many types of berries have high levels of a chromagen called anthocyanin, and this can definitely cause staining.

Both natural and artificial food colouring agents can cause significant staining, especially if you consume the same particular colouring agents over a long time.  

Intrinsic Tooth Staining

Intrinsic stains are more complicated. These stains are caused by damage within the tooth. The most common cause in this case is age, because surface enamel becomes thinner, making the tooth surface less opaque.

Certain types of nutritional disorders, particularly over-exposure to fluoride, can cause discolouration and other dental problems. Some antibiotics, such as tetracycline, can also cause intrinsic staining, though this normally doesn't affect adults who take these antibiotics.

Finally there is another very common cause of intrinsic staining, which is when the tooth sustains significant trauma, usually as a result of a direct hit. If a nerve (or more rarely a blood vessel) in a tooth is damaged, it can cause discolouration to occur. Of the two stain categories, extrinsic stains are much easier to solve than intrinsic stains. 

Best Way to Remove a Stain

There are many different options for removing stains from teeth, but as you'd probably expect, the best way is to seek professional stain removal from a dental clinic.

The actual treatment you'll need depends on the type of stain and the cause. Intrinsic stains can't be removed by cleaning, and quite possibly even ordinary tooth whitening methods may not work very effectively.

In these cases, it is often recommended to apply veneers, replace the discoloured tooth with an artificial one, or use advanced tooth whitening methods..

Your dentist is the best person to consult for advice about remedying intrinsic stains. 

Extrinsic stains, on the other hand, may be removed by cleaning alone if the stain is recent and not severe. When nicotine or tannins cause the discolouration, the staining is likely to be more deeply ingrained, and thus require several cleanings (and you'll need to give up smoking, chewing tobacco, or drinking tea while the treatment is on-going, or it won't be truly effective).

In every case professional tooth-whitening remedies are likely to help. For those very deeply ingrained stains, you should not expect instant miracles, and you'll need to commit to a lengthy course of tooth whitening treatments.

For lighter staining problems, just one or two whitening sessions may be enough. Your dentist is again the best person to consult for direct advice.

Professional whitening is going to be more effective, quicker, and more safe than home remedies. Also be aware that so-called whitening toothpastes do not generally perform any actual whitening. They can help a little, but they won't achieve professional whitening results or anything even remotely close. 

Recent Reviews

Claire Bowe

“I attended many other dentists and received quotes for €3k-€4k and was told I needed upper and lower braces. I then visited 3Dental and was told that I only needed upper braces and the price was...”

Jennifer O Brien

“I got an emergency appointment today within 2 hours. Lovely staff, very helpful and professional.”

Nick Rowe

“Excellent service and friendly staff. Highly recommended if you have any dental needs.”

Declan Cullen

“Fantastic pain free and friendly service. Hadn’t been to the dentist for a few years. At 3Dental they were so professional in their advice regarding treatment. I might even start enjoying going to...”

Finn McGeever

“Rang in for an appointment at 10am on a Saturday and got a booking for 11:20am the same morning. The dentist was very nice and sorted me out straight away. I was in and out within 10 minutes. The...”

Imelda Fisher

“I would highly recommend 3Dental. I had fillings recently and the dentist was so thorough, I need further treatment and this was explained in detail and without any pressure whatsoever. They really...”

Hayley Nolan

“I just could not be any happier with my results from Dr Niall Vallely in 3Dental. I was so so unhappy with my teeth for years would never smile in pictures and finally opted for composite bonding....”


“It is without hesitation I recommend Dr. Andoni for dental implants. I had the smile in a day procedure done and I can honestly say I had no pain or discomfort at all. 3Dental was recommended to me...”

Rachel Whelan

“Just had composite bonding done by Dr. Carmen and I couldn’t be any happier with the final look. I can’t stop smiling she is amazing and so professional. I would 100 percent recommend.”

Carol Devlin

“I’d recommend 3Dental at Red Cow if you are looking to get braces or any dental work done. From the first day 3yrs ago I took my son about getting braces to now. They have been nothing but amazing in...”

Cormac Hegarty

“Best Dental Practice in Dublin. Got an implant fitted over 2 years ago, excellent job and have been attending for general dental upkeep since then. My wife has also joined 3Dental recently. Highly...”

Lorcan Mcauliffe

“Considering having the perfect smile? I cannot recommend 3Dental Limerick enough! I attended the practice last year for a consultation for clear braces to straighten my smile and less than a year...”

Kaitlyn Salmon

“Ms. Rosario Costello was an excellent hygienist. Very friendly and thorough. I had a great experience and look forward to my next appointment. Thank you team 3Dental Limerick!”

Sinead Guiry

“I have been attending 3Dental for almost a year now, and I highly recommend their services. The staff have been so accommodating and approachable. You feel at ease the minute you walk through the...”

Keith Nealon

“I went in for a very small procedure of teeth whitening, and although it's a small job the staff were amazing. From Dr. Ker Her Tan and her lovely assistant that were so nice and had great craic with...”

Sinead Greene

“Thank you so much to the 3Dental Limerick team especially Jennifer who was beyond helpful to my elderly mum and I when we attended for recent appointments. Jennifer helped my mum who has mobility...”

Simon Codyre

“Staff were so kind, great welcome when we arrived. My child felt so at ease. The dentist was so kind and the dental nurse was very kind also. I would highly recommend my friends and family to attend...”

John Murray

“On my first visit to 3Dental I met a very professional team who listened to my concerns and explained everything clearly to me. I assume my follow up visits will be likewise.”

Rory O'Neill

“If like me you are terrified of going to the dentist, then 3Dental is the only show in town now. I needed implants and crowns and the value that I got from Dr. O'Connell was far more competitive than...”

Diane Murphy Donegan

“My 9 year old son recently had 2 tooth extractions on separate occasions with Paul. After how smooth the first one went I had absolutely no issues getting him to go in for the second. 3Dental is a...”

Ready for the Next Step? Book Your Free Consultation

Book A Consultation View Pricing Options