Why are there brown spots on my teeth? And what can I do about them?

Embarrassed young girl with brown hair covering mouth
Brown spots on your teeth can have several causes, some of which are worrisome. The best course of action is to come see us as soon as possible.

A bright-white smile is a common desire for most people, and the typical way to achieve this is through at-home whitening products (or in-office teeth whitening) and minimizing consumption of foods and drinks that contribute to staining. However, some people find that nothing seems to work for their discoloration, and the color of their teeth doesn’t seem to resemble normal surface stains.

Brown Spots on Teeth

More than just an all-over tint, actual brown spots can show up on some people’s teeth and leave them confused as to how they got there. Although the common offenders like coffee, wine, and tobacco can cause brown spots from tannin, that is only one of many reasons why brown spots can occur. Let’s look at some of the reasons why brown spots can appear that you might not be aware of!

Causes of Brown Spots


Maybe you are brushing your teeth thoroughly, and you still can’t remove the discoloration. A toothbrush is not capable of removing hardened plaque, known as tartar. This substance can show up as brown spots near the gumline.

Chlorhexidine Mouthwash

This mouthwash is available only by prescription and is used to treat gum disease. Unfortunately, chlorhexidine can cause serious staining, including very noticeable brown spots.


It is not uncommon for people to notice some discoloration as they get older. This can happen for a number of reasons, including years of smoking or consuming food and drinks that cause staining. In addition, dentin darkens and enamel thins out as we age. As the dentin becomes more noticeable through the thinning enamel, it can appear as brown spots.

Celiac Disease

Defected enamel is one sign of celiac disease, and sometimes it can appear as brown and splotchy. Discoloration in general can be a sign of this disease, but brown spots in particular will show up especially in children who carry the disease. Because treatment will not remove the spots, people with celiac disease tend to have them covered over by their dentist instead.

Tooth Decay

Years of bad oral hygiene can result in brown spots. Neglecting to brush and floss will inevitably wreak havoc on your teeth, and discolored spots are a major warning sign that there is a problem. Tooth decay is normally caused by excess sugar consumption combined with a poor oral health regimen. When left untreated, brown spots can appear either from a naturally darker dentin being exposed by decaying enamel, or the enamel itself turning brown from the decay.


Fluoride is needed to protect teeth, but if used in excess, it can cause hypomineralization of the enamel. Initially, this shows up as white marks, but if left untreated, can turn into pitted brown spots. Dental fluorosis is especially common in children because their enamel is still forming, and it’s easy for them to take in too much fluoride. Fluorosis is not dangerous at all and in most cases, it is very mild.

Treatment for Brown Spots

Regardless of what your individual reason is for experiencing brown spots on your teeth, the best thing to do is come see us for an appointment. We can figure out what’s causing the brown spots. Even if the spots are not a result of something uncontrollable (such as age or disease), you cannot treat them yourself. No amount of brushing will remove the discoloration, especially if it is caused by decay or tartar buildup. Hardened plaque can only be removed by a professional, and the spots are caused by decay, a filling is probably necessary. If you notice brown spots on your teeth, call our office today to schedule an appointment so we can determine the right course of action. If treated appropriately, a bright smile can be yours!