Should I Worry About Black Marks On My Teeth?
Black spots or stains on your teeth can be caused by a number of things, and while not all of them are necessarily indicative of major dental problems, you should still take them seriously until you find out more about what’s causing them. In most cases your dentist should probably help you identify what the problem is, but if the problem is a result of something outside of your dental hygiene, you may want to see a doctor as well.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Stains
If the marks on your teeth are stains rather than cavities or signs of decay, there are two types of stains, each with their own unique causes.
- Intrinsic stains come from the inner layers of the tooth, like the pulp and dentin, and are often caused by medications, fluorosis or some type of trauma or damage to the tooth itself. While having a stain originate from inside your tooth can sound scary, it’s rarely serious if you catch it early. Medications can be changed and fluorosis can be treated, so in most cases it’s just a matter of finding the cause.
- Extrinsic stains start from the outside layers of your teeth (i.e., your enamel), and these are caused by more familiar problems like diet issues, lack of dental hygiene or smoking. These types of stains can be remedied by visiting your dentist for a cleaning, keeping up with daily brushing and flossing and changing the types of foods and drinks you take in. (For example, coffee is notorious for staining enamel.)
If your issue involves medication or your diet, your dentist may be able to give you some suggestions, but you should also consider seeing your doctor to discuss the side effects that your food, drinks and medication are having.
Active and Arrested Cavities
Dark spots on your teeth could be a sign of cavities, but not all cavities are the same. The difference lies in whether your cavity is “active” or “arrested.”
- Active cavities (or areas of active decay) are still growing, and they need to be taken care of quickly to save the tooth or teeth they are affecting. You can often find spots of active decay by poking at a dark spot with a toothpick. Soft and sticky spots are areas of active decay.
- Arrested cavities (or areas of arrested decay) are areas where decay was once active, but which have now “healed” by remineralizing, or hardening up. If you have an arrested cavity, your biggest problem is aesthetic; the cavity is no longer growing and doesn’t present any danger, and in most cases doesn’t even need to be filled.
While not all dark spots pose a danger to your teeth, you may still want to remove the stains if possible. Depending on the cause of the stain, the fix could be easy or take a little more work. With arrested cavities, for example, you may need treatment to remineralize the area, and if there is any hole, you may still need a filling to restore your tooth’s appearance. Many stains, both intrinsic and extrinsic, can be helped by some type of cleaning. A standard cleaning often works, but in cases of fluorosis, you may get an air abrasion.
For more information, contact Denise McGrade DDS or a similar dental professional.