Black Teeth: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Black Teeth: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Having black teeth is not normal and can be indicative of an oral health issue. It can also cause cosmetic concerns, especially if it’s affecting the front teeth. There are different reasons for their development, and it’s important that you seek professional help immediately. 

Here, it should be noted that black teeth don’t occur overnight. It’s a gradual process, and before these stains develop, you might experience some other discomforting symptoms. These can vary depending on the extent of the problem. 

What Gives Teeth Black Colour? 

According to a study published in the Neonatal and Pediatric Medicine journal, black stains are caused by dental plaque. And teeth are black because of a “ferric compound,” probably ferric sulfide. The hydrogen sulfide, either from bacteria or saliva, reacts with iron to form it. There are also other reasons for the formation of black teeth, such as cavities, decay or staining. 

Either the teeth may turn black entirely on the front and back surfaces, or you may notice the formation of spots (one or more). A black line may also form along the gumline. Both children and adults can end up with black teeth, although it is more common in the former. 

Black discolouration can be a result of a problem that affects the outer structure of the tooth, which is known as an extrinsic stain. However, it can also stem from a problem within the tooth, which is known as an intrinsic stain. 

You should also note that black teeth are not the same thing as teeth lacquering. It was a cultural tradition in Japan, Laos, Vietnam, China, Thailand and the Philippines to dye the teeth black in order to prevent cavities. However, it was also considered a sign of beauty.

Why Do Teeth Go Black?

Your teeth can go black due to different reasons. It may start with a small black spot and eventually cover much of the visible surface of the tooth. 

Cavities 

What may start out as white spots on teeth can eventually turn black as a result of dental caries. You’ll also notice holes on the tooth surface where bacteria’s acids have deteriorated enamel and dentin. If left untreated, the cavity will keep on increasing in size. Tooth decay can even lead to the loss of a tooth. 

The main reason for the formation of cavities is the consumption of sugary and acidic foods and poor oral hygiene. The sugar in foods is used by the bacteria in the mouth for energy, and the acid that dissolves the enamel is its waste product. It’s a very common reason for black teeth. 

Dental Plaque 

Bacteria can accumulate in a sticky, colourless film around the neck of the teeth. If you’re brushing and flossing on a daily basis, this plaque is dislodged. However, if that doesn’t happen, it’ll keep on accumulating. And that can harden into what’s known as tartar. It can also give you black teeth. 

Tartar can also be stained by smoking and certain foods. More commonly, tartar can be seen around the front mandibular teeth, but it can also develop elsewhere. This tartar will not only damage the enamel but can also penetrate deeper into the gums, causing gum disease. 

It can also damage the underlying bone structure. For as long as the tartar is present, you won’t be able to clean your teeth properly, and it is not possible to get rid of tartar at home, even though brushing or flossing. 

Consumption of Tobacco Products 

All tobacco products contain nicotine, which gives the teeth a yellowish hue. The burning of tobacco also produces tar and other chemicals that can stain the teeth. The chronic use of tobacco products can eventually make your teeth turn dark after taking a brown shade. 

At this point, you won’t be able to get rid of these stains at home. Also, because smoking promotes the formation of plaque and cavities, it can also exacerbate the black staining of the teeth. 

Fillings 

Silver (amalgam) fillings contain different metals like copper, tin, and silver. These can turn black and make the teeth look black because of the silver sulfide present in them. With time the silver is oxidised, and it breaks down, giving it a black colour. 

If that has happened, you need to make sure to get your teeth checked. That’s because the black of any cavity may be indistinguishable from the black of the fillings. This can cause damage to your teeth. 

Iron Supplements 

Black teeth from the intake of iron supplements have been commonly reported. The stain can develop due to the reaction between the ferric sulfide in the iron supplement with the hydrogen sulfide (from bacteria or in saliva). While low-dose iron can help with this problem, it may not provide enough iron when needed. 

Mayo Clinic recommends mixing liquid iron supplements with water, fruit or tomato juice and consuming it with a straw. A dropper placed behind the tongue is also recommended. Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide can also help brush off these stains. 

Dental Trauma

Discolouration occurs when the blood supply to a tooth is interrupted. This can happen if the pulp inside the tooth is decayed or injured due to different reasons. Eventually, it can result in a dead tooth that’s not receiving any nutrients or oxygen. This can also result in black teeth. 

What Are Black Teeth Symptoms? 

As mentioned above, you won’t end up with black teeth overnight. It’s a gradual process, and you can experience quite a few symptoms (depending on the cause of the problem) before it happens: 

  • Pain 
  • Swelling
  • Gum disease 
  • Increased sensitivity to hot and cold foods 

If you have plaque, it will initially have an orange-yellow colour before it turns black. In the case of cavities, you’ll start with white spots and end up with black ones. 

Black Spot On Teeth: How To Remove?

The treatment for black spots on teeth will, again, depend on the cause of the problem. You may be recommended one or more of the following treatments: 

Scaling & Root Planing 

If tartar is the reason why you have black teeth, your dentist will recommend scaling and root planing. A hooked instrument removes the plaque along the gum line, and the roots of the tooth are smoothed out so that the gums can attach themselves to the teeth. Depending on the severity of the problem, you may need more than one session of this treatment. 

Tooth Filling 

Black teeth from cavities and decay can get treated with the help of a tooth filling treatment. It also helps with the pain and sensitivity that accompanies these problems. The decayed area is first drilled away, and depending on the size of the hole, different types of fillings are placed on top. This also prevents the teeth from getting infected. 

Root Canal 

If the tooth has undergone extensive decay, giving it a black colour, you might need a root canal to fix the underlying problem. That’s because if left untreated, the infection will spread to the pulp and it can die, which can cause further discolouration. 

In this procedure, the canals are first cleaned and then filled up. Following that, a dental crown is placed on that to restore the functioning of the tooth. 

Tooth Extraction 

A tooth damaged beyond repair is better extracted. Your dentist will also recommend extraction if the tooth has died. The tooth is first loosened and completely removed from the socket. To prevent the teeth from shifting or the underlying bone from dissolving, you can get dental implants

How To Prevent Black Teeth?

Practising good oral hygiene is the most important in preventing black teeth. The use of fluoride toothpaste and antimicrobial mouthwash will make sure to keep the teeth strong and protected. This is in addition to flossing. 

Black teeth from tooth decay are common in children, so Hopkins Medicine recommends a well-balanced diet that is low in sugar content. Furthermore, they recommend against sharing utensils or cleaning pacifiers with your saliva as it can transfer bacteria. 

Even as an adult, you should cut down on acidic, sugary foods and those that can stain the teeth. That’s because staining can make the teeth look even darker. Other than that, you should make sure to get yourself checked by a dentist twice every year (after every 6 months). If there’s something wrong with your teeth, your dentist will be able to treat it before it gets worse. 

Concluding Remarks 

Black teeth can be a sign of serious oral health problems. You can end up developing them as a result of plaque formation, cavities, decay, and trauma. Teeth can also look black because of the amalgam fillings and the consumption of iron supplements. 

Keep in mind that tobacco products can worsen these problems and even directly stain the teeth, making them darker with time. You won’t immediately notice your teeth going black, and it may be preceded by you experiencing some other symptoms like pain and infection. If that happens, you should get in touch with a dentist. They’ll recommend a treatment plan according to the cause of the problem.