Pearly white teeth are a sign of good oral hygiene, but despite your best efforts, you might still have noticed some unsightly black teeth stains.
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) explains that it’s normal to experience surface tooth staining at some point in your life, especially if you enjoy wine, coffee, tea or cola. Teeth also naturally darken with age. However, if your teeth are taking on a black appearance, it’s usually a sign of a bigger problem.
Let’s talk about what causes black stains on the teeth and, more importantly, what you can do about it.
What Causes Black Tooth Stains?
The most obvious cause of black staining on the teeth is poor oral hygiene. Health Direct says that acids from plaque and sugary foods can attack the protective enamel coating of your teeth. This causes tooth decay and cavities, which can give the tooth a black or brown appearance if left untreated.
Tobacco contains thousands of chemicals known to cause staining, such as nicotine. As Dental Health Services Victoria explains, smoking cigarettes contributes to the build-up of tartar on the teeth, and they can stain your teeth, tongue and gums black.
SA Health points out that nicotine is not the only drug that can have this effect. They warn that recreational drugs like marijuana, ecstasy, amphetamines, methamphetamines and heroin, along with replacement drugs like methadone, can also give the teeth a black appearance.
How To Get Rid Of Black Tooth Stains
The treatment for black tooth stains depends on the cause, but it almost always requires your dentist or doctor’s assistance.
If your teeth have decayed to the point of turning black, your dentist will need to intervene immediately to avoid losing the tooth. You may be able to have a root canal treatment, which involves cleaning out the decay and the inner tooth material and restoring the tooth structure.
If your black tooth stains are caused by smoking or recreational drug use, see your doctor for support on limiting your use or quitting altogether. If your staining is caused by prescription drugs, your doctor may be able to adjust your medication. However, this is not always possible, and of course treating the illness must take priority.
If the black discolouration is localised to one tooth or a few adjacent teeth, and you’re experiencing pain, it may not be staining after all. Tooth trauma and infection can cause internal bleeding that appears black from the outside. If you suspect infection, or you’ve recently suffered a knock to the teeth, see your dentist as soon as possible for treatment.
While drinks like coffee and wine are very unlikely to turn your teeth black, they do contribute to staining and discolouration. Keeping up a consistent, thorough brushing and flossing routine can keep this type of stain to a minimum. You can also use a straw to bypass your teeth, and drink water between sips to wash away the dark liquids. And if all else fails, your dentist can advise you on suitable whitening options.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
In most cases, black teeth can be salvaged and brightened up, but it’s better to avoid black stains in the first place. Addressing unhealthy habits, sticking to a good oral health routine, and seeing your dentist regularly can go a long way towards preserving your smile, so book that appointment now!