While healthy teeth can vary in colour from pearly white to light yellow, having an excessive amount of yellowing on your teeth is usually a sign that something needs fixing. Luckily, there are several solutions available for rectifying this issue without much difficulty or hassle.
Take a look at this guide from My Local Dentists and discover the science behind teeth discolouration, identify the most frequent causes of yellowing teeth, and understand how to avoid them.
The structure of the teeth
To elucidate why teeth become yellow, let’s first examine the anatomy of our teeth.
When it comes to your teeth, there are two main components: the crown and the root. While most dental issues come from the out-of-sight root portion of our teeth, we often prioritise its aesthetic counterpart -the visible crown. When assessing this part of tooth anatomy, there are roughly four parts that you need to consider for optimal oral hygiene and beauty.
- Enamel: Your enamel is the tough outer layer of your teeth, hardened by minerals such as calcium. This makes it white in colour and grants a level of protection to its more sensitive inner parts from external influences – although it can also be vulnerable to dental cavities over time.
- Dentine: Containing numerous microscopic pathways that transport signals from the enamel to its innermost region (the pulp), dentin makes up most of your tooth. Not only is this structural component highly porous but it’s also composed of a range of proteins like collagen, which give it its natural yellow hue.
- Pulp: Concealed at the core of your tooth lies a fragile, nerve-filled pulp chamber. This section functions to transport oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to it; nevertheless, since its soft structure makes it favourable for enamel breakdown, the sensitivity of this area quickly increases.
- Cementum: Living up to its moniker, this part of the tooth works like a “cement” that helps keep it secured in place on the jawbone. Although tough and durable, it is slightly softer than enamel but contains proteins such as collagen; additionally, since it’s buried deep in the tooth structure, you hardly ever notice—unless your gums start receding.
How do teeth turn yellow?
Your teeth can become yellow due to two primary causes: Intrinsic and extrinsic staining.
Intrinsic staining occurs when the dentin, which is located within your tooth’s middle layer, undergoes discolouration. This type of yellowing typically appears during a process known as demineralisation and is deep-rooted; hence it does not respond to surface stain removal treatments. Rather than relying on these tactics, you may want to consider dental bonding or veneers that ultimately cover up the crown of your tooth.
Extrinsic staining can make your teeth appear dull and discoloured due to pigmented molecules from various food, drinks or tobacco products that attach to the enamel. This type of stain is not permanent and often responds well to at-home remedies. Typically, extrinsic stains have a yellowish hue which may be caused by continuous contact with external elements over time. The buildup of these substances on the tooth surface creates an overlayer which gives it a yellow appearance.
This staining can be reversed when the primary causes are addressed, and excellent oral hygiene combined with at-home whitening kits and professional dental treatments will help restore your smile.
10 yellow teeth causes
Although there can be many reasons for yellow teeth, the majority of them are caused by extrinsic staining, which is, fortunately, easy to remedy. If you’re wondering what may be causing your yellowing pearly whites, consider these ten most common causes:
1. Thinning of the enamel
The enamel of your teeth is the strongest substance in your body, yet it’s still susceptible to erosion. As you age, its wear and tear are naturally accelerated due to consuming acidic foods and beverages, chewing food and rigorous brushing habits – which can lead to an average loss of a millimetre in adults aged 30+. Protecting this valuable asset can help maintain healthy oral hygiene for years to come.
Unfortunately, once enamel wears away and the dentin is exposed, your teeth become naturally yellow – a difficult issue to reverse. Fortunately, though, preventive measures can be taken to ensure that your enamel remains intact so as to preserve its natural whiteness – which we’ll discuss further below.
Despite your best efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, yellowing teeth can sometimes be attributed to genetics. Some individuals are born with less enamel on their pearly whites which allows the dentin’s yellow colouration to peek through. Although this condition doesn’t always point towards any disorder, some health problems, such as enamel hypoplasia, may lead to fewer amounts of tooth enamel present at birth.
As the years pass, your teeth become increasingly yellowed in hue. This is due to enamel erosion over time; as it wears away, more of the dentin’s natural yellow tones are revealed. Even without any external staining agents, your smile may appear discoloured with age.
4. Poor dental hygiene
If you fail to brush and floss your teeth regularly, plaque—a film of bacteria with a yellow hue—can accumulate on the surface of your enamel. This leaves behind an unattractive discolouration that can make even white teeth look dull and dingy. Fortunately, this issue is easily remedied by visiting your dentist for regular cleanings and developing a consistent oral hygiene routine at home.
Aside from increasing your likelihood of various dental issues like gum disease, tooth loss, and halitosis, smoking can also leave you with stained teeth. Compounds within cigarettes, such as tar and nicotine, attach to the enamel on your teeth and give it an unpleasant yellow (and sometimes brown) discolouration.
It’s a good rule to follow that if something can blemish your clothing, it can also discolour your teeth. From tomato sauce and curry powder to balsamic vinegar, dark-hued foods contain chromogens that create stains on the tooth enamel. Though you don’t have to stop eating these dishes altogether, it will help prevent damage if you brush soon after consuming them or keep their contact with the teeth minimal.
If you enjoy your morning coffee, tea in the afternoon, or a nice glass of wine with dinner, then you’ll need to take extra measures to prevent tooth stains. Tannins—a compound that helps chromogens bind to the enamel—are present in all these beverages and can stain teeth if not taken care of properly.
That’s why it is advised to drink through a straw whenever possible; this will help lower contact between teeth and tannins. Additionally, according to one recent study adding milk to your tea or coffee may significantly reduce chances of discolouration as milk binds itself more easily onto tannin molecules than does saliva.
Not only can staining agents cause teeth discolouration, but acidic beverages such as orange juice are also to blame. Acids result in the erosion of tooth enamel which leads to exposing more yellow-coloured dentin underneath. Therefore, it is advised if you consume these drinks that, you use a straw or limit their consumption significantly for optimal dental health results.
8. Use of certain medications and supplements
Certain drugs, such as antibiotics, antihistamines and antihypertensives, can all cause your teeth to yellow. Before you decide on which medications to take, it is essential that you consult with a doctor about the potential side effects of these medicines – including their effect on the colour of your teeth. Though it’s not recommended to discontinue them solely based on this reason, there could be a possibility of switching some medication (always under medical supervision).
Unfortunately, liquid iron supplements can result in teeth staining. However, this issue is easily avoidable by taking an iron supplement in pill form; nevertheless, swallowing pills could pose a challenge for some individuals—especially children. A potential solution to consider is diluting the required dose of iron supplement with water and drinking it through a straw which will reduce its contact with teeth.
Many of us unknowingly grind our teeth, which is a usual reaction to pressure and stress. Unfortunately, it may result in the wearing away of your enamel and reveal the yellow-tinted dentin underneath. To avoid such consequences, try common prevention methods like relieving stress or using a mouth guard – especially if you tend to clench at night.
10. Physical trauma/ injury from accidents
Children are more vulnerable to physical trauma, as their teeth are still in the development stage. This can come from a variety of injuries, which may impede proper tooth development and give them an unappealing yellowish hue that is hard to repair once they reach adulthood.
What can be done to prevent yellow teeth?
To prevent yellowing of the teeth, consider what lifestyle habits could be contributing to this discolouration. If you partake in activities like smoking, drinking coffee or eating staining foods, then it is important that these are modified – eliminating the cause at its root.
In addition to examining your lifestyle choices, make sure that proper oral hygiene is taken into account and practised regularly: brushing and flossing twice a day should suffice for most people; however, if there’s frequent consumption of staining substances, then increasing frequency may be necessary. By following through with all facets mentioned above – addressing lifestyle behaviours as well as maintaining good dental hygiene – one can effectively mitigate tooth discolouration.
Not only is it important to brush and floss your teeth regularly, but also how you do so. To avoid unnecessarily wearing away at your enamel which can lead to discolouration, use a soft-bristled toothbrush for brushing and look for toothpaste or mouthwashes that contain fluoride – this way, you’ll be sure of strengthening the enamel making it less prone to eroding.
Even if you take excellent care of your teeth with a solid oral hygiene routine, it’s still crucial to book appointments for professional cleanings twice a year. Doing this will help ensure that your mouth remains healthy and radiant!
This is the best way to prevent plaque build-up, which not only yellows your teeth but also increases your chances of developing tartar—a hard deposit that leads to tooth decay.
If healthy lifestyle choices and a proper oral hygiene routine don’t leave you with the results you want, you have plenty of options. You can try at-home whitening as a first approach, but it is highly recommended that you see your dentist to whiten your teeth professionally.
Treating yellow teeth with My Local Dentists
Having a bright and healthy smile is achievable with the proper at-home oral care routine and teeth whitening treatments — two essential methods to combat lifestyle factors like poor hygiene, smoking, or specific food choices that are frequently responsible for yellowing your teeth.
If your teeth’ yellowing has become too deep-seated, our dentists at My Local Dentists can recommend the right procedure for tooth whitening. To explore all of the possibilities available to you, book an appointment with one of our friendly and helpful dentists today to whiten your teeth.
How to get rid of yellow teeth