How To Remove Stains From Teeth | Black, Brown & Deep Stain Removal

Written by Fernanda Elizalde

September 25, 2020

Close your eyes and imagine a confident, successful person. What are the characteristics of that person? They could be a man or a woman, tall or short, any ethnicity.

Maybe they’re well-dressed, like a business executive, or have a more casual style, like a Silicon Valley billionaire. No matter the differences, there’s bound to be one thing that all these people have in common: a white, straight smile. Just think about it. TV anchorman? White teeth. Hollywood leading lady? White teeth. Up-and-coming politician?

You better believe they have white teeth. A bright, confident smile is practically a requirement for success these days, and having one is the perfect first step towards becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.

How To Remove Stains From Teeth

Don’t just take my word for it, however. According to independent studies, 58% of people were more likely to be hired after getting their teeth whitened. 65% were viewed as more professional. White teeth don’t just affect your career success, either. A whopping 96% of adults feel that a white smile makes someone more attractive to the opposite gender, and 61% felt more confident after their first teeth whitening. These are huge figures! All these people found greater success with a bright white smile, and so can you. There’s really nothing standing in your way.

So what does this mean for you if you don’t have white teeth? If you look in the mirror every morning and see a stained and yellow smile? Maybe you didn’t brush as much as you should have when you were a kid, or you smoked a few too many cigarettes. There are lots of ways to end up with stained teeth, and sometimes it’s just unavoidable. So, what do you do? Should you just give up? Wait until you get old and replace your teeth with shiny new dentures? Sure, that’s one approach, but you’ll find there are plenty of ways to deal with stained teeth that might not take quite so long.

For thousands of years, people have been trying to discover how to remove stains from teeth. 4,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians were the first to decide that cleaning their teeth with brushes just wasn’t good enough. Even back then, having white teeth was considered to be a sign of beauty and wealth. They created a paste made of ground pumice and white vinegar that could be applied to their teeth. The Romans, meanwhile, just brushed their teeth with urine, letting the ammonia bleach their smiles. While the practice may have worked to whiten their teeth, they must have had some pretty awful breath.

Thankfully, with modern technology and scientific discoveries, we can do a little better than urine and vinegar. There are more ways to whiten your teeth and clean off stains than ever before, and they’re much more effective as well. Don’t know where to start? No problem, we’re here to help. Here are a few things that might be helpful to know when you’re cleaning the stains off your teeth.

Types Of Tooth Stains

One important thing to keep in mind is that there are different types of tooth stains. When you’re thinking about whitening your teeth, the first thing you should do is get in touch with your dentist. They can take a look at your teeth and let you know the best plan of attack. They might also ask some questions about your diet, medications, if you smoke, and other things that help them figure out exactly what’s going on in your mouth on a daily basis. It’s important to know exactly what you’re dealing with before you get to work on it! Different types of stains require different treatments, and might even be indicative of some other issues. In fact, it’s a good rule of thumb to discuss with your dentist before making any big changes to your dental hygiene habits. 

There are two main categories of stains that can appear on your teeth: extrinsic staining, and intrinsic staining. Extrinsic stains are the most common and are also luckily the easiest to deal with. They’re typically superficial, only covering the outside layer of your tooth. This makes them a lot easier to clean off. Often, extrinsic stains will appear yellow and will be spread over the entire surface of the tooth. They usually come from eating food or drinking beverages that have strong coloring, which is then caught on the tooth. Berries, coffee, red wine, fruit juice,

Types of Tooth Stains

and dark sodas are the most common causes of extrinsic staining, as well as smoking and chewing tobacco. The worst culprit? Black tea, believe it or not. The tannins in black tea can get easily caught in crevices in your teeth, leaving behind stains, so be sure to brush your teeth thoroughly after your afternoon tea. 

Naturally, the best way to deal with extrinsic stains is to completely avoid them in the first place. Staining agents in food and drink actually have a lot of trouble sticking to the enamel. When extrinsic stains appear in your smile, it’s usually because the stains are sticking to the plaque on your teeth! Taking good care of your oral hygiene can prevent these kinds of stains from ever showing up on your teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once daily. They also recommend a visit to your dentist once every six months, so be sure to keep up with that too.

The second category of stains on your teeth is called intrinsic staining. Intrinsic stains go deeper into your tooth than extrinsic ones and are usually much more difficult to get rid of. They’re not generally spread across your tooth, instead of appearing mostly as small dark spots. Intrinsic stains aren’t usually caused by food or drink, instead being caused mainly as side effects of medication. You can also end up with intrinsic staining if your teeth are exposed to too much fluoride, from some certain diseases, or if your enamel has been worn down enough to expose the dentin layer of your tooth. 

Unfortunately, intrinsic stains are a little harder to fix. Often, they can’t even be cleaned off your teeth, and have to be hidden by crowns or veneers. Bleaching can also sometimes help or polishing at the dentist’s office. If you notice any stains on your teeth that you think might be intrinsic, let your dentist know as soon as you can. Not only are intrinsic stains hard to deal with, but they also might be a sign that something else is wrong.

What Causes Stained Teeth?

Like you read in the last section, the best way to fix your stained teeth is to never have stained them at all. Sure, it sounds a little glib. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as Ben Franklin would say. While Franklin might not be a person to take dental advice from - he lost many of his chompers later in his life when he tried to cure a case of kidney stones with mercury pills - the aphorism still stands. To better understand how to prevent stains on your pearly whites, it might be helpful to first understand how they get there in the first place. So, what causes stained teeth?

The primary and most obvious cause of stained teeth is food and drink. Red wine, coffee, starchy foods, and dark sodas can leave extrinsic stains behind on your teeth. You should also be careful of stains if you’re a smoker or you chew tobacco, as both can leave some nasty yellow staining on your smile. To a certain extent, these kinds of stains are hard to avoid. Cutting out wine, coffee, pasta, and potatoes isn’t really a realistic solution for most people. But you can still minimize the staining by brushing and flossing your teeth after you eat, or using whitening gels or teeth whitening systems like Snow

What Causes Stained Teeth

Poor dental hygiene is another huge contributor to stains on your teeth. Remember, most extrinsic stains have a lot of trouble binding to the smooth surface of your enamel. It’s the plaque and other buildups on your teeth that it sticks to, so brushing and flossing regularly will go a long way towards avoiding stains. Plaque can also yellow your teeth just by itself, so be sure to get regular cleanings from your dentist as well.

There are also certain diseases that can cause teeth staining or discoloration. Some conditions or illnesses can mess with the enamel on your teeth, making it thinner. The material underneath your enamel, called dentin, is much easier to stain. Dentin is also more yellow than enamel and can make your teeth look more stained than they really are. There are also some medical treatments, like chemotherapy, that can cause discoloration of your teeth. However, if you’re going through chemo, you probably have more to worry about than just your smile. 

Some medications can lead to tooth discoloration, mostly in children. Because kids are still developing their enamel, it’s easy for the process to become messed up and leave them with stained teeth. The antibiotics tetracycline and doxycycline, for example, can have a negative effect on enamel formation in kids under the age of 8. Antihistamines like Benadryl, antipsychotic drugs, and some anti-anxiety medications can also cause discoloration of your teeth, even in adults. It’s always important to talk about these things with your doctor to make sure that you’re getting the best treatment possible.

Other possible causes of discoloration include dental restorations, environmental factors, genetics, damage to a tooth, and regular aging. Some of these things are just plain unavoidable, unfortunately. Maybe someday scientists will discover the cure to aging, but for now, the best we can do is avoid the stains we can and use whitening treatments to take care of the rest.

Poor dental hygiene is another huge contributor to stains on your teeth. Remember, most extrinsic stains have a lot of trouble binding to the smooth surface of your enamel. It’s the plaque and other buildups on your teeth that it sticks to, so brushing and flossing regularly will go a long way towards avoiding stains. Plaque can also yellow your teeth just by itself, so be sure to get regular cleanings from your dentist as well.

Tooth Stains From Food Or Drink

If we’re going to follow Ben Franklin’s advice about prevention, it might be helpful to start with some of the most frequently consumed food and drinks that can stain your teeth. Everyone knows that red wine will leave residue behind, but do you know what else to keep away from? Tooth stains from food or drink are pretty common, so if you want to keep those chompers white and shiny, here are a few things you might want to avoid as much as possible. Remember, just because something appears on this list doesn’t mean you have to stop eating it forever! Just try to steer clear when you can, and be sure to brush your teeth afterward. Your smile will thank you!

One of the biggest stain-causers is coffee, especially black coffee. Your teeth are particularly vulnerable to staining from liquids, because of how porous the

Tooth Stains From Food or Drink

materials they’re made of being. Even one or two cups of coffee a day can leave visible stains because of how dark it is. Of course, nobody is expecting you to give up your daily coffee before work, but consider at least adding some milk or cream to make it a little lighter.

This is kind of an obvious one, but staying away from soda is a great idea if you want your teeth to stay white. Dark sodas like root beer or cola can leave pretty obvious stains on your teeth if you drink it every day, not to mention the damage you’re causing your poor enamel from the acids and sugars in it. Drinking clear or lighter colored soda can prevent some of the staining, but you’d probably be better off cutting out soda altogether. Honestly, drinking soda is one of the worst things you can do to your teeth.

They’re much healthier than soda, but dark-colored fruit juices are also a pretty significant stain risk. The worst culprit is grape juice, but anything darker than apple juice is going to run the risk of staining your teeth. Plus, fruit juice also contains some acids that aren’t great for your enamel. By the way, the same goes for popsicles! Just think about how eating a popsicle stains your lips and tongue, then imagine what it must be doing to your teeth. 

Fans of East Asian food are going to be disappointed to hear this one, but soy sauce is another staining food. Just like soda, coffee, or juice, soy sauce is a dark liquid with the potential of staining your teeth. In fact, the high concentration of soy sauce makes it even more likely than most to leave something behind. Like any of the foods on this list, cutting soy sauce out entirely may be unrealistic, but it may be wise to use it sparingly. Not only will your teeth thank you, but your heart will too - soy sauce is very high in sodium.

With apologies to Dwight Schrute, anyone who’s handled beets before knows how they stain everything they touch. Beets are probably the most potent staining food on this list, leaving a dark red color on your hands, your cutting board, and yes, your teeth. Unfortunately, beets are just so dang good for you that it’s hard to suggest avoiding them. Just be sure to brush your teeth carefully afterward, and you should be fine.

Tooth Stains From Drinking

Tobacco Tooth Stains

Anyone who’s been around smokers enough has noticed the effects it has on your teeth. Both smoking cigarettes and using vapes or other electronic cigarette alternatives can cause unsightly brown stains. This is because of the nicotine. While nicotine is naturally clear, when exposed to oxygen it turns brown, and that can leave stains on your teeth. Cigarettes have other chemicals that can stain as well, but because of the nicotine, even e-cigarettes can stain your teeth. The same goes for chewing tobacco. The brown tobacco mixed with saliva creates a dark brown liquid that can leave dark stains on your teeth. The effect is worsened by chewing tobacco because of how long you keep it in your mouth every time you chew. 

The best and simplest way to deal with tobacco tooth stains is just to quit smoking. Of course, this is much easier said than done. Nicotine is highly addictive, and many people struggle to quit smoking after they’ve started. Even worse, the withdrawal symptoms of nicotine addiction are pretty unpleasant, including headaches, irritability, and intense craving for more cigarettes. Thankfully, there are a number of ways you can get help quitting cigarettes. There’s nicotine gum, patches, and vapes, among other things. While smoking vapes and e-cigarettes will still leave stains on your teeth, the other health risks are relatively low compared to real cigarettes, making them a pretty decent alternative when you’re trying to quit.

Tobacco stains on your teeth can be particularly difficult to remove since they’ve usually been built up through years of smoking or chewing dip. This means that many tobacco stains go deeper than just the enamel, even penetrating the outer layers of your dentin. Some smokers end up with especially dark stains on the sides or edges of their teeth. That’s because this is where plaque usually builds up, and, like most stains, tobacco stains bind more easily to plaque than enamel. Another common issue smokers have is staining at the top of their teeth, right by the gumline. That’s because receding gums is a side effect of smoking cigarettes. As your gums shrink and pull away from your teeth, they reveal parts of the root that were never meant to be exposed. Your enamel is much thinner in these parts of your teeth, which means they stain faster.

To remove tobacco stains, you should first start by making sure you’re brushing twice and flossing once every day, as well as keeping up on your visits to the

Tobacco Tooth Stains
dentist for a cleaning. Even if you haven’t quit smoking yet, taking good care of

your teeth can help prevent the staining from getting too bad. Because tobacco stains are mostly extrinsic, using teeth whitening products like strips, gels, or teeth whitening kits like Snow can be pretty effective in cleaning off some of that brown gunk. If you’re having trouble quitting, remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Take advantage of resources like or the SAMHSA hotline, and find a gum or nicotine patch that helps you fight the cravings.

Tooth Stains From Tartar

If you don’t brush and floss your teeth regularly enough (brush twice a day and floss once daily, according to the ADA), then you can end up with a buildup of plaque on your teeth. Plaque is essentially a thin, sticky biofilm that starts to form on your teeth after eating. It’s created by the mixture of saliva, food, and other liquid in your mouth after you eat. If it sounds gross, well, that’s because it is. Plaque also contains a ton of bacteria, which collect on your teeth. This bacteria feeds on the food and drink that you eat, and produces an acid that can damage your teeth and gums. If you don’t take good care of your teeth, the bacteria can eat through your enamel and cause lasting damage, so be sure to brush your teeth! 

In addition to damaging your teeth, plaque is also highly porous, more so than the tooth itself. This makes it a perfect place for stains to form and attach themselves, instead of the smooth surface of your enamel. Plaque is the cause of a lot of staining and can make your teeth look yellowed or even brown if you don’t brush

Tooth Stains From Tartar

regularly. The bacteria also cause gum inflammation and even bad breath. If you don’t want to be driving people away every time you open your mouth, plaque is definitely something you should be concerned about. Luckily, plaque by itself is fairly easy to clean. Brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits should be enough to keep your mouth relatively free of plaque. If you let these habits lapse, however, things can get a lot worse.

If plaque isn’t regularly removed from your teeth, mineral deposits from your saliva can cause it to turn harder. This is called tartar, or dental calculus. It’s a fairly common issue, with over 68% of American adults having some amount of tartar in their mouths. But it can also be seriously concerning. Plaque can turn into tartar within 48 to 72 hours if not cleaned from your mouth. Once formed, tartar appears as yellow or brown deposits on your teeth. Because it’s so closely bound to your enamel, tartar is nearly impossible to remove by yourself. Usually, the only way to get rid of tartar is to visit the dentist for a cleaning. Tooth stains from tartar are trickier to get rid of than stains on plaque. As you age, tartar begins to build up in your mouth faster and faster. Some other factors that can lead to more tartar buildup include braces, chronic dry mouth, crowded teeth, and smoking. Yet another reason to quit!

Both plaque and tartar are easily stained, which can make your teeth look pretty yellow pretty quickly. Your teeth also get more yellow as your white enamel is eaten away by bacteria, making the issue even worse. When it comes to plaque and tartar, there’s really no easy trick or hack. Just brush and floss your teeth regularly, and get them cleaned by a dentist every six months. If you do this, you should be fine!

Tooth Stains From Aging

The truth is, aging isn’t always the most beautiful thing in the world. Sure, it comes with wisdom, thoughtfulness, and it keeps you from doing all the stupid things you used to do when you were young. But it comes with plenty of downsides: wrinkles, sagging, and a host of fun and exciting new aches and pains. All of this extends to your mouth as well. It used to be that losing your teeth when you got old was a given. Even as late as a century ago, older people regularly had to get complete dentures. But these days, more people than ever are keeping their natural teeth for their whole lives. Here are some issues you might notice as you enter your twilight years, and how you can deal with them.

As you age, even if you take great care of your teeth, you might notice that your pearly whites are looking a little less pearly - and a little less white. These tooth stains from aging come from a few different factors. The first is that things just build up. Sure, you might have done a great job brushing your teeth as a rule. But what about the times you went camping and forgot your toothbrush? Or when you had wine and didn’t get a chance to brush that night? All these little stains start to add up when you reach your 60s and older. Unfortunately, nobody can take

Tooth Stains from Aging

perfect care of their teeth all the time, for the entirety of their life. The other main reason for yellowing teeth with age is the natural thinning of your enamel. As you get older, your enamel gets thinner and sometimes even cracks, revealing the yellower dentin inside. Dentin also expands inside your tooth as you age, taking up more room that used to be filled with more transparent pulp. This can contribute to the increasingly yellow appearance of your teeth.

Ultimately, a lot of the problems you might have with your teeth as you get older come down to wear and tear. Your teeth might be strong, but decades of crunching and grinding will eventually take a toll. Besides the damage caused by a lifetime of soda and other acids, your enamel gets gradually worn away throughout your life. This can be made worse if you have problems with grinding your teeth. As your enamel is weakened, this puts you at a higher risk of a crack in your tooth, exposing the sensitive pulp within. Unfortunately, the nerves inside your teeth lose sensitivity as you age, so it may be difficult to notice any damage when it first arises. That’s why seeing your dentist regularly is so vital, even as you reach the later period of your life. In fact, it only becomes more vital! These days, the rate of tooth decay is higher in people over 65 than it is in children. That’s mostly because of the reasons mentioned above, plus the fact that, for the first time, people are actually keeping their teeth to their old age. 

Tooth Stains From Fluorosis

In 1901, a young dentist moved to Colorado Springs to practice dentistry. Once he arrived, he was shocked to discover that many of the town’s residents had strange dark stains on their teeth. Weirder still, it only affected those who had been born in Colorado Springs, not transplants. When researching the origins of what he called the “Colorado Brown Stain,” the dentist also discovered that the residents of Colorado Springs had teeth that were extremely resistant to tooth decay. It wasn’t until over 30 years later that the mystery was finally solved. As it turns out, the drinking water in Colorado Springs had extremely high levels of fluoride.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance in a number of places, including soil and water. In small amounts, fluoride is great for your teeth! It strengthens your enamel and can even undo some small cavities. Today, fluoride has been introduced to the drinking water of the entire United States, a practice that the CDC listed as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century. A little fluoride can go a long way towards strengthening your teeth and keeping your smile bright white. However, it does have some not so positive side effects.

Tooth Stains From Fluorosis

Just like in Colorado Springs, too much fluoride can create some pretty nasty stains on your teeth. It’s called fluorosis, and it’s caused by overexposure of fluoride in the first eight or so years of your life. Tooth stains from fluorosis are usually fairly light, like a net of lacy white markings on your teeth. Often, these markings are really only obvious to your dentist. However, sometimes the stains can be much worse. Severe cases of fluorosis can result in dark yellow or brown staining and even noticeable pits on your teeth. The young dentist in Colorado Springs described the residents’ teeth as looking like they were caked with dark chocolate, an evocative and frankly haunting turn of phrase. Thankfully, only 1-2% of fluorosis cases are serious enough to have dark visible staining at all. If you’re one of those unlucky enough to have a serious case of fluorosis, the most common treatment is using standard tooth whitening products to mask the stains.

Today, about one in four Americans suffer from some level of fluorosis. It’s most common in children ages 12 to 15, and, while it’s not usually all that harmful, it can be a pretty psychologically traumatizing thing to suffer from. It’s most often caused by overuse of fluoride dental products like toothpaste or mouthwash during childhood. Fluorosis is one of the biggest reasons you should tell your kids not to swallow toothpaste, no matter how good it might taste! It’s also important to monitor how much fluoride your child is taking in. Remember, a little bit goes a long way, so try not to go overboard! Talk to your dentist if you want some advice on fluoride products for your children.

How To Remove Deep Brown And Black Stains From Your Teeth

If you’re looking in the mirror and seeing stains that are deep brown or even black, that’s obviously going to be a little more troubling than just some yellowing. Wondering how to remove deep brown and black stains from your teeth? These kinds of dark stains can sometimes be a sign that something is seriously wrong in your mouth, or at the very least a sign that you should be brushing a lot more frequently than you are. Very dark stains can be more difficult to remove than just your standard yellow plaque, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up. There’s a whitening solution for nearly every problem, dark brown and black stains included.

Brown stains on your teeth can have any number of causes, but the most common one is smoking or chewing tobacco. As the nicotine in the cigarettes is exposed to oxygen, it takes on a dark brown color that is then passed on to your teeth. As always, the best way to deal with the side effects of smoking is to quit. Finding something to help you quit, like nicotine gum or patches, is going to be

How to Remove Dark Brown and Black Stains from Teeth

your best bet for fixing your teeth. The good news is that brown nicotine stains respond pretty well to teeth whitening products like whitening strips or trays. But ultimately, if you’re continuing to smoke, you’re just going to keep picking up more stains.

Dark stains can also be a sign of more serious tooth decay. Plaque by itself has a more yellowy color, but if you have a significant buildup of tartar on your teeth, you can start to see some darker brown stains appearing as well. Darker stains can also come from decay inside the tooth, like a cavity or infection in your pulp. If this is the case, you’re going to want to see your dentist right away. Trying to bleach away the stains without treating the underlying issue isn’t going to work all that well, unfortunately.

If you notice that one of your teeth has turned black, then you should see a dentist right away. A black tooth is a tooth with some serious issues. When a tooth is damaged enough to be cut off from the blood supply from the root, it will start to turn black as it dies. This can happen from years of neglecting your dental hygiene, or if your tooth is chipped or otherwise damaged more severely. If you spot a black tooth in your mouth, you may need a root canal or the tooth may need to be removed altogether. Once the source of the issue has been found, you may want to put a veneer over the black tooth, because regular whitening products may not be enough.

Can You Remove Tooth Stains Instantly?

These days, we’ve come to expect everything to happen quickly. We watch movies on the go on our phones, we can look up the answer to any question immediately, and, if we order something online, we expect it to show up practically overnight. It stands to reason that the same would go for our teeth. In this age of instant gratification, shouldn’t you be able to clean your teeth as quickly as you order a pizza? Can you remove tooth stains instantly? It’s a nice thought, but the answer is unfortunately no, not so much. Whitening your teeth takes time if you want it done well.

Most methods of whitening your teeth work by applying a small amount of peroxide to the surface of your teeth to bleach them white. Peroxide is great for

Can You Remove Teeth Stains Instantly

clearing off stains, but, at a higher concentration, it can also be damaging to your enamel. By limiting the amount of peroxide in whitening products, you protect your enamel at the cost of the treatment taking a little longer to work. At the end of the day, that seems like a pretty fair trade. Most teeth whitening systems like Snow take several weeks to complete, although you might start seeing improvements as early as a week into the process. 

There are a few different ways to whiten your teeth. The most common way is to use whitening strips, which are thin strips of flexible plastic coated in peroxide. You just apply the strips to your teeth, wait for a while, and then remove them and throw them away. Overall, whitening strips take about two to three weeks to work. You can also use whitening trays filled with peroxide gel, which takes about two weeks. If you’re using whitening toothpaste or mouthwash, it can take even longer. The fastest way to whiten your teeth is to have it done professionally at your dentist’s office. Each treatment takes about 90 minutes in the chair, and you’ll likely need to return for one or two additional treatments before you’re done.