Natural Teeth Color: Understanding Discoloration (+Tips)

Natural Teeth Color: Understanding Discoloration (+Tips)

Have you ever wondered why some people have naturally whiter teeth than others? 

Or maybe you’ve tried whitening your teeth with no luck, and have been left asking if your teeth are just naturally stained. 

If this is you, this article will answer some of your questions!

We’ll discuss the composition of your teeth, and what factors influence the natural color of our teeth. 

We will also discuss what you can do to achieve a whiter smile, and why some stubborn stains refuse to lift. 

Let's get into it!

The Layers of Truth

The first thing to discuss when beginning to understand natural tooth color is the layers of your teeth. 

Your teeth are made of 3 basic layers: The enamel, the dentin and the pulp. 


The enamel makes up the outer layer of our teeth, and is the hardest substance found in the human body. Its role is to protect our teeth from damage, allowing them to break down foods. 

Ameloblasts are specialized epithelial cells that generate enamel during development and the hydroxyapatite crystals are arranged in long, thin rods in mature enamel.

Enamel is naturally a whitish, translucent color, but can become stained. 


The dentin is found just underneath the enamel. Whilst still being strong, its role is to provide some level of cushioning to the tooth, and to transmit temperature and pain signals. 

Ten percent water, twenty percent organic material, and seventy percent mineralized material make up dentin. The primary component in these crystals is calcium hydroxyapatite, or Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2, with trace amounts of fluoride and carbonate. Dentin has a high tensile strength and shields the pulp. 

The dentin layer is naturally yellow-brownish in color, and opaque. Its color can sometimes show through the enamel layer, which is translucent. 


The pulp is the innermost layer of the tooth, which contains blood vessels and nerves that supply the tooth. The odontoblastic layer, mesenchymal zone, cell-rich zone, and core are the four anatomical zones that make up the pulp.

Determinants of Natural Tooth Color 

There are a number of factors that determine natural tooth color, which is free of surface stains. 

It is also important to note that teeth naturally have a yellow hue to them, due to their layers. This is an indicator that they are healthy. 

  1. Enamel Thickness: Whilst the enamel layer is naturally a shade of white, the layer underneath, called the dentin, has a yellow hue. This yellow hue can shine through if your enamel layer is thinner 
  2. Age: Over time, our enamel begins to wear, allowing the underlying, yellow-shaded layer of dentin to peek through 
  3. Genetics: Like most things in our body, our genetics influences our natural tooth color. This is often due to the shade of dentin we inherit from our parents. 
  4. Medications: Certain medications, such as certain antibiotics that are taken during childhood can cause changes in natural tooth color 

Understanding Tooth Discoloration 

If you have concerns about the color of your teeth, and are looking for options to improve their appearance, it is first important to understand the two most common types of stains. 

1. Extrinsic stains

Extrinsic stains are the most common sources of tooth discoloration. Luckily, they are also the easiest to treat. 

Extrinsic stains only affect the top layer of your teeth, the enamel. 

These stains are caused by food and drinks we consume, along with poor dental hygiene resulting in plaque build up, or tobacco usage. 

Unfortunately, your enamel is easily stained by foods we eat, drinks we consume and other factors such as poor dental hygiene and tobacco smoking. 

Sources of Extrinsic Stains: 

  • Food and Beverages: Common sources include coffee, tea, red wine, cola, berries, and foods like curry, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar 
  • Tobacco: Both smoking and chewing tobacco can cause surface staining 
  • Poor Dental Hygiene: If you do not floss, or brush your teeth at least twice a day, it is likely that the buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth can cause staining of the enamel 

2. Intrinsic Discoloration

Intrinsic discoloration is the second type of stain. It is less common, but unfortunately is harder to treat when compared to extrinsic, or surface stains. These stains often require professional dental attention to resolve. 

Intrinsic stains usually affect the layer underneath the enamel, called the dentin. 

Sources of Intrinsic Stains: 

  • Medications: Certain medications, such as Tetracycline antibiotics can cause staining of the deeper layers of teeth when taken in childhood
  • Fluorosis: Excessive fluoride intake during the early stages of tooth development can cause fluorosis. Fluorosis causes white streaks or spots on the enamel.
  • Tooth Damage: Teeth can become stained after accidents involving the teeth. This may be due to bleeding within the tooth, or damage to the innermost latter, called the pulp. 

Professional Teeth Whitening Options 

It's no secret that a gleaming white smile does wonders for confidence. Luckily, there are many tooth whitening options which can help improve the appearance of your smile. 

It is important to note that whiter teeth are not necessarily healthier teeth. 

Also remember that some discoloration comes from within the tooth, and will not respond to regular whitening treatments. 

In-office teeth whitening

In office, or professional whitening, is often performed in a dentist’s office. 

The dentist, or technician will ask you about your dental history, and perform an inspection of your teeth. They are then able to whiten your teeth using a specialized gel, and shield your gums from any irritation that may occur. When using hydrogen peroxide for teeth whitening, your dentist will usually use a higher dosage than what you would find in at-home kits. 

When compared to alternative approaches, in-office treatment typically has faster results and longer-lasting effects.



Ensures safe treatment 

Specialized care depending on stain type 

Offer treatments and advice to reduce tooth sensitivity 

Can be expensive 

Can take repeat appointments to achieve desired results 

Some clinics have long wait times 

Take-home teeth whitening kits 

Take home teeth whitening kits work in similar ways to dentist whitening treatments, and allow you to whiten your teeth from home. 

There are many options for at home whitening, including: 

  • Whitening Pens: Whitening pens contain a whitening gel which can be applied to the teeth and left to lift surface stains. 
  • This allows you to achieve targeted whitening, which is great for people with concentrated surface stains, such as stains from tobacco smoke. 

  • Whitening Strips: Tooth Whitening strips, such as Boka’s Teeth Whitening Strips can be placed across the teeth, and left to lift stains for about 30 minutes. 
  • Whitening Kits/ Gels: Tooth whitening kits are some of the most popular, and effective at home treatments to help improve the appearance of your smile. 
  • Kits such as our award-winning At Home Rapid Radiance Teeth Whitening Kit works using a whitening gel which is placed on a dental guard, and left to lift stains. This helps to whiten teeth in as little as a week, and is designed to minimize tooth sensitivity. 

  • Whitening Toothpaste: Whitening toothpaste is a great way to gently lift surface stains which can accumulate due to day to day activities such as coffee drinking. 
  • Whitening toothpaste such as our Whitening Toothpaste contains baking soda which gently buffs away surface stains to reveal the white, stain-free enamel layer. 




    Budget friendly 

    Easy to use 

    Only work on extrinsic stains 

    Often take longer to see results 

    Tips for Maintaining Natural Teeth Color

    Remember what we said about extrinsic vs intrinsic stains? 

    Some stains, such as extrinsic stains can be effectively dealt with, if you know how. While intrinsic stains, which affect the deeper layer of teeth are not so easily targeted, and often require a dentist to assess. 

    Great tips for maintaining your teeth’s natural color include: 

  • Brushing and flossing regularly: Making sure you look after your teeth properly will also help keep your smile nice and bright. Plaque, which naturally builds up during the day, can contribute to surface stains. 
  • By brushing twice a day, and flossing at least once a day, you can ensure these stains never occur. 

  • Choosing the right toothbrush and toothpaste: Choosing toothpaste that protects your enamel ensures that there is no premature wasting of the enamel. 
  • Choose a toothpaste that helps to remineralize your teeth. The enamel layer is responsible for the white appearance of teeth, protecting this layer is important if you want to maintain the appearance of your teeth’s natural color. 

  • Avoiding staining foods and beverages: One of the easiest, and most effective ways of maintaining your teeth’s natural color is avoiding food and drinks that result in surface staining. 
  • Some of the best things to avoid are tea, coffee and tobacco. If you do consume these things, consider brushing your teeth after consuming them, to help remove the stains. 

    • Drinking plenty of water: Drinking water is great for regularly cleaning your teeth and rinsing away staining food and drink remnants. 

    It is also essential in maintaining the health of your enamel which is responsible for the white property of teeth. 

  • Visiting the dentist regularly: Visiting the dentist is something that most people neglect, but is essential in maintaining the health and appearance of our teeth. 

  • Dentists help to professionally clean your teeth, and will treat any underlying dental conditions that are impacting the appearance of your teeth. 
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