Brown Stripes at the Bases of Your Teeth: What's the Cause?

Posted on: 26 January 2022

Obviously, there's a clear margin between your teeth and your gums. The white (or off-white) visible crowns of your teeth create a margin when they meet the pink of your gingival tissues (gums). Some people may have to contend with a third colour at this margin. What's causing a brown stripe at the bases of your teeth, where they meet the gums?

Plaque Becomes Tartar

Brown discolouration at the base of a tooth may be tartar. When you brush your teeth, you're removing actual food debris and also dental plaque. Plaque is a combination of bacteria and fungi, and the key to managing it is by maintaining an adequate level of oral hygiene and being consistent about this level. Plaque that's allowed to remain on teeth can harden, becoming calcified plaque (which is commonly known as tartar). This tartar cannot be removed by your toothbrush.

Supragingival and Subgingival Tartar

The bases of teeth are common spots for tartar to develop. When it's along the gum line, it's typically referred to as supragingival. Tartar that extends beneath the gum line is called subgingival. The bacterial concentration of this tartar is causing the underlying dental enamel to erode. Additionally, the influx of oral bacteria is likely to be irritating your gums, causing gingivitis — which can develop into more destructive forms of periodontal disease.

Your Dental Visits

Tartar is simple enough to treat, but only a dentist or dental nurse can remove it. It's possible that your tartar has developed due to the length of time that has gone by since you last visited the dentist. If so, you're not alone. It's estimated that some two million Aussies delay their dental treatment (or don't receive treatment at all). Remember that your teeth will inevitably deteriorate once tartar has taken hold, so it's definitely time to make an appointment with your dentist.

Tartar Removal

Your teeth will be scaled, which scrapes the tartar away without damaging the underlying enamel. Depending on whether this enamel has demineralised, you may need additional treatment to restore it. In any event, the elimination of your supragingival tartar will remove those brown stripes. Your dentist will also remove any subgingival tartar which may have developed beneath the gum line. 

You can't correct tartar by whitening your teeth, nor can you brush it away. It's easily treatable once it's formed, but only if you don't delay treatment. Once tartar has the opportunity to corrode your teeth, more extensive restoration will be needed. Those brown stripes at the bases of your teeth should be examined by your dentist soon.