Teeth owe their color to the high amount of calcium found in the outer layer of the teeth, known as the enamel.
Over time, additional elements left behind by foods and drinks can start to make teeth yellow or gray. If the teeth turn black, however, a person should visit a dentist as soon as possible.
Teeth turn black from either extrinsic or intrinsic causes.
Extrinsic causes of the teeth turning black come from the outside of the tooth.
These can include:
- damage to the enamel
- tartar buildup
Some direct causes of staining include:
- frequently eating or drinking a dark food product, such as coffee
- taking certain medications, such as liquid iron supplements
- using certain mouth rinses and toothpastes
- using tobacco
- having crowns and fillings made with silver sulfide
The tooth may appear black when damaged from the inside. The most common culprits of black teeth in these cases are decay or cavities. For example, a pulp infection or dead tooth may turn a tooth black.
The damage starts on the inside and works its way to the surface. The black color of the tooth may first appear in spots and eventually cover the entire tooth if left untreated.
Treatment and prevention
Treating black teeth at home is not usually possible. Several home whitening kits are available that may help with mild discoloration, but black teeth typically require professional treatment.
A dentist will examine the teeth to diagnose the underlying cause and will then determine the right treatment.