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Brown spots on my teeth and whitening makes them worse

Posted by AllSmiles

Since childhood, I’ve had brown spots on six front teeth. I was told that the discoloration came from illness and frequent fever as a child. My dentist has tried whitening my teeth with different products. Although my teeth are whiter, the discoloration looks darker than ever. My dentist says that he may be able to grind away the discoloration and put composite over it. The process sounds painful. And my dentist doesn’t sound as if he knows that it will work. I am 33 years old and finally stable enough to get this done right without being my dentist’s guinea pig. Is grinding off the stains the only option? – Thank you. Ksenia from Chicago


You are wise to be cautious about letting your dentist try to remove or reduce the brown spots on your teeth. Your dentist’s attempt to improve your teeth with bleaching shows that he does not understand how to predict the results of whatever treatment he uses.

What Causes Brown Spots on Teeth?

Brown spots on teeth can result from a variety of conditions—some medical and some external. Some causes of brown tooth stains include:

  • Excessive intake of fluoride (fluorosis stains)
  • High fever during childhood while teeth are developing
  • Taking the antibiotic tetracycline while teeth are developing
  • Tobacco products
  • Tooth decay
  • Trauma
  • Untreated decalcification around braces

Will Teeth Whitening Remove Brown Spots?

Teeth whitening will not remove embedded brown spots caused by fluorosis, tetracycline, fever during childhood, and other factors.

Microabrasion for Brown Spots on Teeth

Microabrasion is a process that uses hydrochloric acid and pumice to gently remove a small about of tooth enamel. If the brown spots on your teeth are not deeply embedded, microabrasion might work.

Severe Brown Spots on Teeth

When brown spots on your teeth are severe, a cosmetic dentist can conceal them with dental bonding or porcelain veneers.

Dental Bonding for Brown Spots on Teeth

Dental bonding can conceal brown spots if a skilled cosmetic dentist does it. The dentist will take these steps:

  • Clean and dry your teeth
  • Roughen the surface
  • Lightly etch your teeth
  • Blend dental composite to perfectly match your natural tooth shade
  • Apply and sculpt the composite
  • Harden and polish it

Porcelain Veneers for Brown Spots on Teeth

The tip of dental forceps hold a porcelain veneer
A cosmetic dentist can conceal brown spots with porcelain veneers

Porcelain veneers will conceal brown spots on teeth. Although they are more expensive than dental bonding, they last longer. Veneers can last up to 20 years, but bonding must be renewed every three to five years—if not sooner.

A cosmetic dentist takes these steps for veneers:

  • Talks to you about your preferences for tooth shape, size, and color
  • Prepares your teeth by removing less than one millimeter of tooth enamel
  • Takes impressions of your teeth
  • Give you temporary veneers to wear before you approve the look and feel
  • Sends your case to a ceramist to make your porcelain veneers
  • Bonds the veneers on after you approve the look and feel

A dentist must have advanced cosmetic dentistry training to achieve natural-looking results with composite or veneers. Your cosmetic dentist must:

  • Conceal the brown spots
  • Maintain translucence in the bonding or porcelain veneers
  • Perfectly match the bonding or veneers with the surrounding teeth

We recommend looking for a cosmetic dentist and scheduling a consultation to examine your teeth and explain your treatment options. Verify the dentist’s credentials before agreeing to treatment. Read our post, Her porcelain veneers keep falling off, but are they really veneers?, to understand why you must be cautious.


Dr. Thomas J. Goebel, a cosmetic dentist in Moline, IL, sponsors this post. Visit his smile gallery to see before-and-after patient photos.