What causes blackness between my teeth? How can I get rid of it?

black between teeth
Do you feel self-conscious about the blackness that has appeared between your teeth?

You're not alone. Several dental conditions can lead to this issue, such as black tartar, dental discoloration, and cavities. It's crucial to identify the underlying cause to get rid of them for good.

In this article, we'll discuss the common causes of blackness between teeth and provide helpful tips to help you get your smile back to its best.

Key takeaways:

The blackness between your teeth can stem from various dental conditions, including:

  1. Black triangles: These can be normal in certain anatomical situations but may indicate issues like receding gums.
  2. Plaque and tartar buildup: Sometimes, these deposits absorb pigments from foods like coffee, tea, and chocolate, resulting in dark stains on your teeth.
  3. Tooth discoloration: Particularly, external dental stains can contribute to the blackness.
  4. Cavities: These can develop in any part of the teeth, including the spaces between them, creating black holes.

The treatment approach depends on the underlying cause and the severity of your case. It may involve professional dental cleaning, whitening treatments, or cosmetic restorations (such as veneers, composite bonding, or crowns).

Black Triangles

triangular vs rectangular teeth In healthy conditions, there are triangle-shaped gums called papilla or interdental gingiva between the teeth. However, when the papilla shrinks or disappears, it creates a black gap known as a "black triangle."

This can be normal in certain anatomical situations, such as when the teeth have round or triangular shapes or if you have a naturally shorter papilla. However, if you notice that black triangles have suddenly appeared, or that you didn't have them before, this may indicate a problem.

If left untreated, plaque and food can become trapped in these gaps, leading to other issues such as gum disease or tooth decay.

Causes of black triangles:

The most common causes of black triangles include:

1. Gum Disease:

The buildup of plaque on teeth can lead to gum disease. This occurs when bacteria in the plaque irritate the gums, causing redness, swelling, and sometimes bleeding during brushing or eating. As gum disease progresses, it can result in bone loss around the teeth, leading to gum recession and the formation of black triangles.

2. After a Deep Dental Cleaning:

If you have gum disease and undergo a deep cleaning (scaling and root planing) at the dentist, you might expect your gums to return to normal. However, this is not always the case. As your gums heal and inflammation subsides, there can be some shrinkage, resulting in the loss of papillae and the appearance of black triangles.

3. After Orthodontic Treatment:

When teeth are crowded, they can affect the position and shape of the papillae. After orthodontic treatment aligns the teeth, you may notice small or missing papillae, creating black triangles.

4. Gum Recession:

Apart from gum disease, other factors like excessive pressure while brushing or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can cause gum recession. Continuous irritation from sources like piercings can also injure the gums and lead to recession, contributing to the formation of black triangles.

Treatment options for black triangles:

Treatment depends on the cause and severity of your case. Sometimes, nothing is required if they are stable and do not cause an aesthetic problem (they are not noticeable when you talk or smile). However, if they bother you and tend to accumulate plaque, it may be necessary to fill these black spaces.

  1. Composite bonding: A tooth-colored dental material can be used to fill the black triangles.
    This is the cheapest and easiest method and can give you great and long-lasting results as long as you maintain good oral hygiene.
    Your dentist will first choose the color to match your natural teeth and then bond the composite filling to reshape the area between your teeth.

  2. Orthodontics: If your teeth are triangular, leaving a black triangle near the gum line, an orthodontist can close these gaps by reducing a thin layer of enamel between your teeth. This procedure is called interproximal reduction (IPR).
    After the teeth are brought together with braces or clear aligners, these spaces will disappear within a few days.

  3. Veneers: These are thin, tooth-colored shells of porcelain that cover the visible part of your front teeth. They can fix discoloration, chips, and minor misalignment issues. They can also be used to fill in the black triangles between your teeth, giving you a more durable and aesthetically pleasing result.
    The only drawback compared to composite bonding is that they tend to be more expensive and require an additional step of trimming and preparing your teeth.

  4. Crowns: Unlike veneers, dental crowns are caps that cover the entire tooth. They can reshape the teeth and hide the black gaps. Crowns can be a good alternative if the tooth is too damaged to support a filling or veneer.

  5. Gum grafting: To address gum recession and reinforce the gum tissue, a gum graft may be necessary. This procedure involves taking soft tissue, usually from the roof of the mouth, and placing it over the receding area.
    However, reconstructing gums between teeth poses challenges due to limited blood flow in that region. This limitation can result in imperfect and unpredictable outcomes. The success of the graft relies on sufficient blood supply for proper healing and stability, which is lacking in the interdental region.

Plaque and Tartar:

Tartar buildup

Dental plaque is a thin whitish film that forms on the surfaces of your teeth when you neglect brushing for an extended period. It primarily consists of bacteria, which make up 70-80% of its dry weight.

Initially, plaque is not easily noticeable in small amounts. One way to reveal it is to gently rub your teeth with a toothpick.

However, as it accumulates, it becomes visible and takes on a yellowish color. Over time, it can absorb minerals from saliva and food, turning into hard calculus, also known as tartar.

The spaces between teeth and around the gum line are particularly vulnerable to plaque and tartar buildup due to their narrow nature and protection. This makes them a perfect environment for bacteria growth.

Black tartar can be the cause of blackness between your teeth:

Initially, tartar appears as a hard, porous, yellowish buildup on the teeth. However, when exposed to pigmented foods like tea or coffee, it can take on a brown or black color.
Tartar can also develop below the gum line, forming subgingival tartar. In this area, it consistently acquires a black color as it combines with blood and gingival fluid. Subgingival tartar is not visible because it is concealed by the gums.

The complications of plaque and tartar:

Plaque and tartar are the primary cause of gum disease and cavities. If left on your teeth, they can irritate your tissues and lead to inflammation. Many complications can occur, including:

  • Bone loss around teeth.
  • Gum recession.
  • Tooth loosening.
  • Infections and abscesses.
  • Tooth loss.


The best way to avoid dental disease and complications related to plaque and tartar is to prevent them from forming in the first place.

  • Brush your teeth regularly and properly with fluoride toothpaste, and remember to clean between your teeth. Different tools can help you do this, such as dental floss, an interdental brush, or an oral irrigator. Whichever one you choose, the most important thing is to clean between your teeth every day.

  • While you can control plaque build-up at home, tartar is harder to remove. The only way to get rid of it is to have it professionally cleaned by your dentist.

  • If the tartar is deep under the gum line, you may need an additional step called root planing. This involves inserting instruments below the gum line to clean the root surfaces.

  • Afterward, your dentist may prescribe an antiseptic mouthwash to reduce the bacterial load and promote healing.

Tooth decay:

Black tartar vs. Cavities
Tooth decay is the most widespread disease in the world. According to a CDC report, 1 in 4 adults aged 20 to 64 currently has at least one cavity.

There are different types of dental cavities, depending on their location in your teeth. The lesions that occur between the teeth are called interdental or interproximal decay. They are common and more likely to occur if you skip flossing or cleaning between your teeth.

Another type of decay that can spread between your teeth is called root decay. It starts at the gum line and can extend to the root area. It occurs most in the elderly following gum recessions.

When gums pull away from your teeth, they expose the roots, which are more fragile and vulnerable. As a result, root decay tends to progress rapidly toward the pulp.

What does tooth decay look like?

Tooth decay in its early stages may not cause any pain, making it easy to go unnoticed. Initially, it appears as rough, whitish, or brownish spots on the tooth surface.

Detecting decay between the teeth can be even more challenging since it is hidden from view. One way to uncover these spots is by using dental floss. When you floss, the surfaces between your teeth should feel smooth, and the floss should come out without any tearing or damage. If the floss does tear or get damaged, it could be a sign of decay.

As decay progresses, it leads to the formation of black holes or cavities, becoming more noticeable. At this stage, you may experience increased tooth sensitivity, especially to cold, heat, or pressure.

Treatment options:

The best approach is to prevent these issues from occurring in the first place. You can achieve this by practicing good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleaning.

If decay has occurred and is not too severe, the treatment involves removing the decayed tissue and filling the tooth.

For deeper decay that has reached the pulp, a root canal procedure may be necessary to remove the affected nerve. Afterward, your dentist may recommend a crown to restore the tooth's structure and provide added protection against future damage.

Tooth discoloration:

1. Black Line Stains:

Black line stains

Some bacteria in our mouths can interact with iron from saliva and dietary supplements, causing black lines to appear on the teeth.

These deposits are tough to remove with a toothbrush and may come back even after treatment.

These are not cavities or the black tartar we saw earlier. They appear as thin lines running around the gum line. In fact, studies have found that people with these black lines actually have a low risk of tooth decay.

What do they look like?

They appear as continuous or discontinuous lines that start at the gum line and end at one-third of the tooth. They are extremely sticky and do not disappear with brushing.


Treatment for these black lines consists of scaling and polishing by your dentist. As they tend to reappear, you will need to pay more attention to your diet and oral hygiene.

2. Extrinsic dental stains due to tobacco or food:

Black tartar vs Extrinsic dental stains
Tobacco contains substances that can deeply penetrate the enamel, leading to discoloration. This typically results in dark brown or black stains.
Similarly, certain foods, like coffee, tea, and chocolate, contain a coloring substance called tannin. As our teeth have permeable surfaces, tannins can attach to the outer layer of the tooth (enamel), causing visible dark discoloration on the surface.

Treatment options

The good news is that these types of stains are not permanent and will disappear as soon as you improve your oral hygiene by brushing regularly and using the correct technique.
Some at-home whitening solutions can help speed up the process, such as whitening strips, kits, and toothpaste.

In-office whitening is the best solution for immediate, long-lasting, and effective results. Your dentist will apply a highly concentrated whitening gel to your teeth and leave it on for a few minutes. Additional applications may be required (3 to 4 times) to achieve the desired results.

  1. Basics of oral health: Cavities https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/fast-facts/cavities/
  2. Dental plaque https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dental_plaque
  3. Black staining: an overview for the general dental practitioner https://www.nature.com/articles/s41415-022-4345-0