Printer Friendly Version Email A Friend Add This Increase Text Size Decrease Text Size

Tooth - abnormal colors



Abnormal tooth color is any color other than the white to yellowish-white of normal teeth.

Alternative Names

Discolored teeth; Tooth discoloration; Tooth pigmentation

Common Causes
  • Antibiotic tetracycline use before age 8
  • Eating or drinking items that temporarily stain the teeth, such as tea or coffee
  • Genetic defects that affect the tooth enamel, such as dentinogenesis and amelogenesis
  • High fever at an age when teeth are forming
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Porphyria
  • Severe neonatal jaundice
  • Too much fluoride from environmental sources (natural high water fluoride levels) or overuse of fluoride rinses, toothpaste, and fluoride supplements
Home Care

Good oral hygiene will help if the teeth are stained from a food or fluid, or if the abnormal color is the result of poor hygiene.

It is appropriate to consult your dentist for abnormally colored teeth. However, if the color seems to be related to a medical condition, your regular health care provider should also be consulted.

Call your health care provider if

Call your health care provider if:

  • Teeth appear to be an abnormal color without cause
  • Abnormal tooth color lasts even after practicing good oral hygiene
What to expect at your health care provider's office

The dentist will examine the teeth and ask questions about the symptoms. Questions may include:

  • Time pattern
    • Have the teeth been abnormally colored since they grew in, or did they change color over time?
    • When did you notice this problem?
    • Does it improve when good oral hygiene is maintained?
  • Diet
    • What foods and drinks do you or your child usually consume?
    • Does the person drink coffee or tea?
    • How much milk and dairy products does the person drink?
  • Medication history
    • What medications are currently being used?
    • What medications have been taken in the past (particularly, did the child ever take tetracycline)?
    • What medications did the mother take when pregnant?
  • Health history and family history
    • Do other members of the family have teeth that are abnormally colored?
    • How has the general health been?
    • Was the child jaundiced as a baby?
  • Fluoride exposure
    • Is the water fluoridated where you live or visit frequently?
    • Do you take fluoride supplements?
  • Oral hygiene habits
    • Are there frequent problems with the teeth such as cavities or gum inflammation?
    • What are the dental habits?
    • How often are the teeth brushed and flossed?
    • What kind of toothpaste, mouthwash, or similar substances are used?
  • What other symptoms are also present?

Testing may not be necessary in many cases. However, if the health care provider suspects the coloration may be related to a medical condition, testing may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Dental x-rays may be taken.


Many different things can cause tooth discoloration. The change in color may affect the entire tooth, or just appear as spots or lines in the tooth enamel.

Your genes influence your tooth color. Other things that can affect tooth color include:

  • Congenital diseases
  • Environmental factors
  • Infections

Inherited diseases may affect the thickness of enamel or the calcium or protein content of the enamel, which can cause color changes. Metabolic diseases may cause changes in tooth color and shape.

Drugs and medications either taken by the mother while pregnant or by the child during the time of tooth development can cause changes in both the color and hardness of the enamel.

Related Taxonomy

Review Date: 2/22/2010
Reviewed By: Jack D Rosenberg, DDS, Advanced Dental Care, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, M.D., MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2009 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Home Page
Why Choose Us
Website Terms of Use

Visitor & Patient Info
Patient Portal
We Speak Your Language
Patient Privacy
Contact Us

Find a Physician
Medical Services
Maimonides In the News
Directions & Parking

Medical Education
Career Opportunities
Nurses & Physicians
Staff Intranet Access
Maimonides Medical Center    |    4802 Tenth Avenue    |    Brooklyn, NY 11219    |    718.283.6000    |