You glance in the mirror and notice dark black lines running along your teeth. These thin black lines seem to have appeared out of nowhere. You brush vigorously but the lines remain stubbornly in place.

While this discoloration may be alarming, black lines on teeth are relatively common. Also called iron stains or black tartar, these lines occur as a result of thinning enamel and years of buildup on your teeth.

Though unsightly, black lines are treatable through proper oral care, lifestyle changes, and professional dental treatments. With some time and effort, you can remove black stains and restore your teeth’s natural whiteness.

I. What Causes Black Lines on Teeth?

Before exploring how to banish black lines for good, it helps to understand what causes them in the first place. There are several contributing factors that can leave dark discoloration along the gumline and in the crevices of your teeth:

1. Smoking and Tobacco Use

Lighting up allows tar, nicotine, and other chemicals to coat your teeth, leaving behind dark stains in the process.

Tobacco use discolors enamel and seeps into pores and cracks in your teeth.

So if you smoke cigarettes, cigars, or use other tobacco products, this habit can contribute to black lines.

2. Plaque Buildup

Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, naturally forms on everyone’s teeth. Without proper brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into tartar that adheres to your teeth.

This tartar traps stains over time, including those caused by food, drinks, and smoking. Insufficient oral hygiene allows layers of plaque and tartar to build up and darken along the gumline.

3. Enamel Erosion

The outermost layer of your teeth is composed of strong white enamel. As this protective enamel layer thins with age, it slowly exposes the darker, yellowish layer underneath called dentin.

This erosion makes black stains and lines more visible along the gumline and at the roots of teeth. Conditions like acid reflux can also erode enamel over time.

4. Tooth Decay

Untreated tooth decay and cavities lead to black spots and lines near areas of damage. Decay that forms along the gumline often has a black, gritty appearance as it eats away at enamel and dentin.

Without dental treatment, these cavities allow stains to set in and darken as the decay worsens.

5. Gum Disease

Gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease, causes inflammation and bleeding in the gums. As it progresses to periodontitis, gum disease creates pockets around the base of your teeth.

These tiny spaces harbor bacteria and allow stains to seep in. Patients with advanced gum disease often have black tar-like lines running vertically along their teeth next to areas of infection.

II. How to Prevent Black Lines on Teeth

While genetics and aging contribute to enamel erosion and gum recession, certain lifestyle measures can reduce your likelihood of developing black stains:

  • Brush twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and whitening toothpaste. Take time to carefully brush along the gumline where stains accumulate.
  • Floss thoroughly once per day, taking care to snap the floss into tight crevices between teeth.
  • Rinse daily with an antimicrobial mouthwash to reduce plaque bacteria.
  • Drink water throughout the day and reduce consumption of staining foods and beverages like coffee, tea, wine, soda, etc.
  • Quit smoking or using tobacco products to prevent tar and nicotine stains.
  • Get dental cleanings every 6 months to prevent dangerous plaque buildup.
  • Apply enamel-strengthening fluoride treatments to help resist stains.

By combining diligent oral hygiene with lifestyle changes, you can curb additional discoloration and gain control over new black lines on your teeth.

III. How to Remove Black Lines on Teeth (Professional Treatments)

While home care helps reduce stain buildup, existing black lines require professional treatments to remove fully. Several cosmetic dentistry options can eliminate discoloration for a brighter, whiter smile:

1. Teeth Whitening

Whitening strips, gels, and trays applied at home have limited effectiveness on stubborn black stains. In-office procedures performed by your dentist are far more potent.

These use higher concentrated peroxide gels along with laser light or LED lamps to penetrate deep stains.

With several 30-60 minute whitening sessions, professional whitening can greatly reduce the appearance of black lines and discoloration.

2. Dental Cleanings

Tartar and plaque removal every 6 months clears away built-up stains on teeth. A professional dental cleaning scrubs deep to remove sticky buildup that regular brushing misses.

Polishing teeth afterward leaves a stain-resistant smooth surface. Yet beware overly aggressive scraping during cleanings as this can worsen enamel erosion over time.

3. Dental Restorations

For cavities and tooth decay contributing to black lines, a filling or crown can cover up damaged areas.

Composite resin fillings seamlessly blend with your natural tooth color. Likewise, porcelain or ceramic crowns fully envelop discolored teeth with a pristine white covering.

4. Gum Disease Treatment

In some cases, black lines near gums result from periodontal disease. Your dentist can prescribe antibiotics or antimicrobial rinses to clear gum infections.

For advanced cases, deep cleanings and gum surgery remove bacteria below the gumline and shorten overgrown gums for a fresher, pinker smile.

With the right dental treatments and daily preventive care, eliminating black stains from your teeth is very achievable.

Be sure to maintain regular checkups and cleanings to keep your smile looking its best.

IV. When to See a Dentist About Black Lines

While home care helps reduce stains, visiting your dentist should be part of your strategy for banishing black lines. See your dentist promptly if you notice:

  • Black lines are worsening or failing to improve with daily brushing and flossing
  • Increased staining and discoloration occurring at the gum line
  • Visible chips, cracks, or erosion in enamel
  • Tooth sensitivity and pain, especially with hot and cold foods
  • Yellow, brown, or black spots indicating tooth decay
  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums signaling gum disease

Routine dental cleanings and exams every 6 months also help catch problems early before they worsen.

Your dentist can identify areas of decay, infection, or gum disease that may contribute to black lines on your teeth.

During regular visits, ask your dentist:

  • What is causing the black stains? Are enamel, decay, or gum disease to blame?
  • What preventive measures, lifestyle changes, or dental work do you recommend?
  • Would teeth whitening or other cosmetic treatments help reduce the discoloration?

With professional guidance, you can pinpoint the origin of black lines and take appropriate steps to whiten your teeth.

Waiting too long risks additional damage, so schedule an appointment if lines are severe or causing discomfort.

V. Cosmetic Treatments for Black Stains

For strictly cosmetic improvement, various dental procedures can mask or alter the appearance of black lines:

1. Teeth Whitening

As previously mentioned, professional whitening performed in-office by your dentist offers the most dramatic results for eliminating stains. Bleaching agents break up deep-set discoloration that regular toothpastes cannot.

For a special event or quick cosmetic boost, an intensive 1-hour whitening session lightens black lines and brightens your entire smile.

2. Dental Veneers

These thin porcelain covers adhere to the front of teeth for a complete makeover.

By creating a smooth new surface over your existing enamel, veneers can instantly hide black lines near the gumline.

Veneers last for many years but require the removal of a small amount of natural tooth structure.

3. Dental Bonding

Like veneers, bonding uses tooth-colored resin material to resurface teeth. Applied in layers, dental bonding fills in chips or gaps and covers discoloration.

While cheaper than veneers, bonding is less durable and more prone to staining over time.

4. Dental Crowns

Crowns fully encase damaged or discolored teeth with custom-fitted ceramic or porcelain caps.

By capping the entire visible tooth down to the gumline, crowns create an even, brightened appearance that conceals black lines. They require extensive reshaping of the natural tooth.

Be sure to discuss the advantages, disadvantages, and costs with your dentist when considering these cosmetic options for black line removal. Professional whitening offers the most conservative approach before trying more invasive veneers, bonding, or crowns.


While jarring at first glance, black lines along your teeth are fairly common and do not necessarily indicate a major dental issue.

Stains can arise from smoking, plaque buildup, enamel erosion, decay, and gum disease. Though harmless in themselves, black lines point to larger problems that require attention.

Implementing diligent oral hygiene, regular dental visits, and conservative whitening can help reduce discoloration.

For smokers, quitting the habit is essential. Address signs of decay and gum disease before they worsen.

In severe cases, cosmetic treatments like dental veneers or crowns may be needed to mask appearance.

But take time to identify the origin of stains and treat any underlying causes with your dentist. With patience and proper care, eliminating black lines for a brighter smile is an achievable goal.

Remember, twice-yearly cleanings and checkups are vital for monitoring the health of your mouth. Be vigilant with brushing and flossing, especially along the gumline where stains occur.

With a little time and effort, you can keep your teeth looking their absolute whitest and free of dark discoloration.

Useful Links:

Black Stain and Dental Caries: A Review of the Literature

Dental black plaque: metagenomic characterization and comparative analysis with white-plaque

Black staining: an overview for the general dental practitioner