The problem of transforming yellow teeth into pearly whites has likely plagued humanity since our earliest civilizations. With their limited knowledge of the reasons for yellow teeth, our ancestors used treatments ranging from stale urine to ground-up animal parts to whiten their teeth. Fortunately, we now know more about what causes yellow teeth and have modern methods that deliver whitening results without any of the awful taste of the ancient concoctions.
You may find that your teeth are still yellow although you are brushing them daily with a good toothpaste. If this is you, all hope isn’t lost. In this article we will delve into the reasons you may be experiencing yellow teeth despite brushing. Read to the end for tips on how to whiten your teeth and things you should avoid to prevent yellowing from reoccurring.
First, let’s set expectations by looking at the role genetics play in the natural shade of your teeth.
What is The Natural Color of Healthy Teeth?
The shade of white, natural to your teeth, is affected by the two outermost layers that make up your teeth. The hardest layer on the outside–the enamel–is naturally white and responsible for giving your teeth their white appearance. However, the second layer–the dentin–is naturally yellow and if the enamel is thin, the dentin can “show through” the enamel, causing teeth to look yellow. Your teeth’s natural color will depend on how dark the dentin is and how thin your tooth enamel is.
People with very yellow or dark dentin will find that their natural teeth color is duller than those with less yellow dentin. And those with thinner enamel will find that more of the yellow dentin shows through the thin exterior, causing their white enamel to appear yellow.
If your teeth are less white naturally, you may find that they remain yellow despite frequent brushing. In that case, one of our professional whitening services that can go below the enamel to whiten your dentin may be helpful. But there are other, more controllable things that may be making your teeth yellow.
If your teeth are extremely yellow, it is very likely that external factors have either stained the natural color of the enamel. Here are some of the major extrinsic causes of yellow teeth. Later we’ll look at ways you can fix these.
Major Causes Of Yellow Teeth
Some Medications and Over-the-Counter Treatments
Saliva has the important job of coating the enamel so that it resists stain. It’s also made up of a special combination of compounds that keep your mouth’s microbiome at a perfectly neutral PH level that makes it difficult for the food acids that break down enamel to thrive. But some medications, for example high blood pressure and antipsychotic drugs, lessen the amount of saliva your mouth produces.
If you’re taking medications with dry mouth as a side effect, this could be the cause of your yellow teeth. If you’re on the medication long term, it may also explain why your yellow teeth don’t improve although you brush regularly. Over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl also have the same effect on saliva and can lead to yellow teeth.
Similar to the genetic factors above, teeth grinding can thin out the enamel and cause yellow teeth.
In normal times, about 10% of Americans grind their teeth. But according to the American Dentist Association, since the pandemic, this number has increased. What’s worse is that since teeth grinding is an unconscious habit most prevalent during sleep,you may not even know that you grind your teeth or that this habit is the reason for your yellow teeth.
Foods and Drinks
If you’ve ever labored to get a red wine stain from a white shirt, you know how utterly resistant food and drink stains can be. Despite your best efforts, most times the shirt stays stained even after you’ve tried every trick Google suggests. Now imagine that same stain on your teeth.
The offenders in foods and drinks fall into two categories. Drinks like red wine and teas contain staining compounds called tannins and chromogens that can discolor enamel. And foods like citrus fruits are so acidic that their acids erode enamel when eaten regularly. Here are the major foods that cause yellow teeth that you’ll want to stay away from.
Staining Foods that Cause Yellow Teeth
- Teas and coffees
- Berries and cranberries
- Colored popsicles and candies
- Tomato-based foods
- Red wine
- Citrus fruits
- Orange juice
- Lemon juice
Smoking of tobacco products is a notorious cause of yellow teeth. The nicotine and tar in tobacco can leak into the enamel through tiny pores and lead to stained teeth.
In chronic smokers, this discoloration can happen rapidly and lead to heavily discolored teeth that will remain yellow even if you brush your teeth often. Sometimes these difficult to treat stains can only be removed through the help of one of our professional whitening treatments.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Failing to brush and floss regularly can lead to many dental problems. Yellowing is one of the most obvious. When plaque and tartar accumulate on the surface of your teeth, they can cause stains that appear yellow. But if you fall into the camp of those who brush regularly but still have yellow teeth, the problem may be harsh brushing or using the wrong toothbrush.
Toothbrushes with hard bristles may erode enamel and cause yellowing. If you are using the correct toothbrush, the issue may be a harsh brushing style that is causing gradual erosion of the enamel.
Lastly, trauma to your teeth through a fall, an accident, or some other physical impact can crack the enamel or damage the inner core of your teeth and lead to discoloration. While this may be simple yellowing that can be treated, sometimes the discoloration may be worse and signal dying teeth.
Some of these causes of yellow teeth can be improved by brushing with the proper toothpaste. However, even with frequent brushing you may find that your yellow teeth don’t improve. Here are a few reasons why frequent brushing alone isn’t improving your yellow teeth.
Why Is Brushing Regularly Not Whitening Your Yellow Teeth?
If you have tried brushing your teeth regularly to get rid of the yellow, you may have found that brushing isn’t producing any change in the color of your teeth. Here are some reasons why brushing may not be enough to get rid of the yellow.
Below the Surface Stains
If your teeth are yellow because of surface stains, brushing with a whitening toothpaste may help. The whitening agents in toothpastes are designed to penetrate on the surface level so stains at this level can be removed with brushing. However, if your yellow teeth are caused by deeper stains, brushing alone will do little good. You may need a more serious whitening treatment like an at-home whitening kit with bleaching agents that can reach below surface stains. Or, you may need professional help.
Teeth That Are Naturally Yellow or That Have Become Yellow With Age
As mentioned previously, having teeth that are naturally less white is another reason you may have yellow teeth although you brush regularly. Since the yellow is deep inside your teeth, you may need professional whitening treatment to get to the dentin and make it whiter.
Although just brushing may not be yielding the results you desire, there are things you can try to see real change in your teeth’s color.
Best Things To Do To Whiten Yellow Teeth
Brush and Floss Frequently
Practicing good dental hygiene is the first step to getting your teeth whiter. Brushing and flossing well are crucial, as doing them frequently will get rid of plaque which can attract stains which stick to the surface of the teeth. Getting rid of plaque before it turns to tartar will also keep your teeth looking healthy and white.
Use a Sonic Toothbrush
Using a sonic or sound-wave toothbrush gives you a big advantage. The number of brush strokes per minute are touted to be on the order of 30,000 plus. Try that with your manual toothbrush. The result is a much more effective job of cleaning and removing tartar to prevent plaque build-up.
Pay Attention to Your Diet
If you can, limit or avoid foods known to stain teeth. If you find this difficult because you need your regular cup of coffee everyday, or like to unwind with a glass of wine in the evenings, try drinking through a straw so the staining agents don’t come in contact with your teeth. Finding less-staining alternatives to the foods you love may also be helpful.
In addition to keeping away from acidic and staining foods, try adding foods known to promote saliva and clean teeth to your diet. Teeth cleaning foods include carrots, celery, cucumber and apples.
Get Regular Dental Check-ups and Cleanings
If your teeth yellowing is caused by issues best treated by a dentist, keeping your regular appointments may catch them before they worsen. A professional cleaning also does a more thorough job than you can do at home with brushing and will get rid of any buildup on your teeth that may be causing them to become yellow.
Using Teeth Whitening Products
Teeth whitening kits and other whitening products are made from carbamide peroxide or other peroxide-based substances that can bleach teeth and permanently change their color. These products can be gels that you apply to your teeth for a prescribed period of time (usually 30 to 45 minutes) or invisible strips that you wear for a few minutes everyday and are the best bet for treating yellow teeth at home.
Get Rid of Stress
If you suspect that your yellowing teeth are caused by teeth grinding at night, getting rid of stress or wearing a mouthguard while you sleep is a good way to stop the damaging habit.
Things To Avoid To Prevent Teeth From Yellowing Again
Once you have succeeded in whitening your teeth, you’ll want to avoid the following things:
- Mouth-drying medications and over the counter drugs
- Foods and drinks that can stain teeth
- Smoking tobacco products
- Poor oral hygiene habits
Yellow teeth can be embarrassing, but fortunately we’ve come a long way in understanding the causes of yellow teeth and the best practices to treat and prevent the condition. By understanding what makes teeth yellow and avoiding these things, you can be sure of maintaining those pearly whites for a long time to come. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are also important to keep your teeth healthy and white.
Lastly, if you have tried everything and still aren’t happy with the color of your teeth, you may want to check out the information about our dental veneers.