What is tooth discolouration

Tooth discolouration is when the teeth become discoloured from stains on the tooth’s surface or when there are changes in the tooth material. Your natural teeth should be a pearly shade rather than an actual bright white. Discoloured teeth show white streaks or yellow tints and can even show brown spots. There are many factors that can cause tooth discolouration as it comes in 3 different forms:

  • Extrinsic discolouration - when the enamel layer of the tooth is stained.
  • Intrinsic discolouration - when the inner dentin structure of the tooth is tinted or darkened.
  • Age-related discolouration - a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic discolouration as the dentin naturally yellows over time as does enamel thinning, which allows the dentin the show through.

Tooth discolouration is simply a cosmetic problem and is not a serious medical condition that will lead to further complications if untreated. It is completely personal preference whether or not you decide to seek treatment for your tooth stains. The only time where tooth discolouration should be mentioned to your dentist is if you notice colour changes in your child’s teeth.


Most minor stains can be lifted through regular brushing, flossing and mouthwash as a good overall oral care routine is essential for your teeth’s whiteness and health. Brushing with a toothpaste like Macleans Whitening will remove minor stains while helping to prevent further staining, while flossing and mouthwash can help to remove stains in between the teeth. Some minor enamel stains could require regular professional cleaning or “power bleaching” where a light-activated gel is applied and results in whiter teeth in just 30-45 minutes. Your dentist may also recommend at-home whitening treatments that are weaker than professional bleaching and can take around 4 weeks.

Some tooth stains however are permanent and severe discolouration may need a crown or veneer to cover it. These may be recommended if bleaching will not lighten your tooth stains or if the tooth is chipped or badly damaged.