Dealing with yellowing teeth is a common issue for many people. Teeth can become discolored from smoking, food and drink stains, or plaque and tartar buildup. However, sometimes people notice that just one tooth is discolored when the rest around them are their normal shade. What causes this, and what can be done about it?
Tooth decay often happens when the enamel (the hard, protective coating on the outside of your teeth) starts to erode. When this is gone, it’s more likely that plaque can stick to your teeth (and plaque is filled with bacteria).
If you see a dark spot on one tooth, this can be a sign of many other things, too, such as:
- Cavities – Cavities that are left untreated can cause brown, yellow, or black spots on a tooth.
- Tooth decay – Teeth will turn gray, brown, or black if the pulp inside has died.
- Injury – Trauma to teeth can damage the nerves, which can cause spots or whole-tooth discoloration.
- Tartar buildup – When plaque isn’t removed, it turns into tartar, which stains teeth and can be difficult to remove.
- Fluorosis (excess fluoride) – Sometimes children receive too much fluoride during the time that their teeth are forming. This can cause fluorosis, which can result in tooth discoloration.
- Celiac disease – Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) can cause wear and tear on teeth enamel, which in turn causes brown spots on the teeth.
- Overuse of antibiotics – Certain antibiotics, mainly tetracycline and doxycycline, can cause discolored teeth. This typically happens in children who took these medications regularly while their permanent teeth were forming, but it can also be caused when the mother took them during pregnancy.
- Tartar buildup -Single-tooth discoloration can also be caused by tartar buildup. Tartar is hardened plaque, and it often presents as yellow or brown, usually by the gumline.
- Chlorhexidine mouthwash – This type of mouthwash is prescribed for people with halitosis or chronic bad breath. Although it kills the bad bacteria which cause bad breath, it can cause brown spots on the teeth.
Usually, when only one tooth is discolored (i.e., yellow, gray, or brown) and there aren’t spots on the surrounding teeth, it can signify a root issue. Check with your dentist and get an x-ray to determine if there are issues underneath your gums that are causing single teeth to become discolored. If the pulp inside your teeth dies and has caused your tooth to turn brown, you’ll probably need a root canal.
Many people also notice that their teeth become spotty with age. This is sometimes a result of a few factors, such as enamel wearing down over time, darkening dentin (the substance underneath enamel that surrounds each tooth), and years of stains from food and drink.
Check your teeth carefully for spots and make sure that you’re staying up on dentist visits twice a year. If you notice that one tooth is discolored compared to the rest, don’t ignore it! Treating the issue early can mean saving your tooth and preventing further damage.