Is It a Tooth Stain or a Cavity?

tooth stain vs cavity

Is It a Tooth Stain or a Cavity?

Have you ever looked into a mirror and noticed a dark spot on your tooth and wondered whether it’s a tooth stain or cavity? It can be a bit difficult for the untrained eye to tell the difference, but one thing is certain—damage to your tooth enamel is always cause for concern! If you notice any dark spots on your teeth, you should definitely schedule a professional dental cleaning and exam as soon as possible.  

Tooth Stain vs. Cavity: How to Tell the Difference


While cavities and stains look very much alike, there are some noticeable differences between them. Cavities are typically brown, black, or grey colored spots on the teeth. Because cavities are caused by the destruction of tooth enamel, these dark colored spots look more like holes in the teeth, rather than spots on the tooth’s surface.


Tooth stains can appear as brown, yellow, green, purple, or red discoloration. Typically, tooth stains are caused by consuming certain foods and beverages or using tobacco. Brown and yellow stains on the teeth are usually caused by chewing tobacco or smoking. Red stains or purple stains may be a result of drinking wine. 


Plaque buildup on the teeth can also lead to tooth discoloration. Unless it’s removed, plaque will harden into tartar, which causes yellow or brown stains. Tartar needs to be removed with a professional dental cleaning before it destroys the enamel and causes cavities. 

Is It a Tooth Stain or a Cavity? 

The appearance of stains and cavities isn’t the only way to tell them apart. If you have a cavity, you will notice other symptoms and warning signs like tooth pain or sensitivity to heat and cold. If you have a cavity, you need to visit the dentist as soon as possible and get it filled before it causes further decay. 

To combat tooth stains and cavities, it’s important to practice good dental hygiene daily. However, your teeth will gradually become discolored as you age. If your teeth are stained, you can brighten your smile with whitening treatments. Professional teeth whitening treatments will remove surface stains from your teeth and restore your bright-white smile!  

Treatment for Cavities and Tooth Stains

The appearance of stains and cavities on your teeth means you need to seek treatment as soon as possible. Ignoring a tooth stain or cavity will only cause further damage to your oral health. If you suspect you might have a cavity, or if you’re interested in cosmetic teeth whitening, Prescott Dentistry can help. Don’t delay—schedule an appointment today!

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (12/8/2021). Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash