Though not as urgent as other dental conditions, yellow teeth can cost you your confidence and willingness to smile every day. Luckily, improving the color of your teeth can be as simple as changing what you eat and drink while fixing your oral care routine. You may even benefit from whitening treatment by your dentist. Here are common causes of this undesirable tint, and ways to avoid them.

What are causes of yellow teeth?

  • Genetics: Sometimes, tooth color runs in the family. If one of your parents have yellow teeth, it’s likely that yours are a similar hue. Reddish brown, reddish yellow, gray and reddish gray are the four natural shades of otherwise white teeth, and this depth of color varies across a spectrum from light to dark.
  • Poor dental hygiene: Inadequate brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash to remove plaque and stain-producing substances like coffee and tobacco can cause discoloration.
  • Dentin: Teeth look yellow when enamel is thin, and the dentin underneath shows through it. Dentin is a deep yellow to brownish material inside your teeth under the enamel, and it’s often responsible for the yellow you see when you look in the mirror. Thick enamel covers up the dentin, but it doesn’t always block the stains that build up on the surface.
  • Wear: Teeth ultimately turn yellow as you get older, when enamel wears away from chewing and exposure to acids from food and drink. Most teeth turn yellow as this enamel thins with age, but some take on a grayish shade when mixed with a lasting food stain.
  • Smoking: Nicotine from smoking doesn’t just develop an unhealthy addiction; it leaves yellowish or brownish surface stains on your teeth, too (one more reason to kick the habit).
  • Foods: A wide range of foods stain teeth. Tomatoes in pasta sauce, curry spices and berries all contain pigments that cling to tooth enamel and stain this surface. Even a healthy salad with balsamic vinegar dressing can leave an unsightly color on your teeth.
  • Drinks: Coffee and tea are two of the most common causes of yellow teeth, but red and white wines are also to blame. Other culprits include sugary sodas and sports drinks with artificial flavoring. These drinks attack enamel leaving them thin and allowing the yellow dentin to show through.
  • Disease: Several diseases that affect enamel and dentin can lead to tooth discoloration. Treatments for certain conditions can also affect tooth color. For example, head and neck radiation and chemotherapy can cause teeth discoloration. In addition, certain infections in pregnant mothers can cause tooth discoloration in the infant by affecting enamel development.
  • Antibiotics: The antibiotics tetracycline and doxycycline are known to discolor teeth when given to children whose teeth are still developing (before age 8). Mouth rinses and washes containing chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride can also stain teeth. Antihistamines (like Benadryl), antipsychotic drugs, and drugs for high blood pressure also cause teeth discoloration.
  • Fluorosis: Fluoride is good for teeth, but excess fluoride can cause yellow or brownish yellow spots called fluorosis. Fluoridated water, fluoride toothpaste and prescribed fluoride tablets and treatments are your biggest sources of fluoride. Ask your dentist if you’re concerned you or your child is taking too much through these means.
  • Accidents: Impact of an accident or physical trauma can crack tooth enamel and damage the tooth’s interior, leading to discoloration that may indicate bleeding that needs professional attention.
  • Grinding: Tooth grinding is an unconscious habit some people have when they’re stressed, especially while asleep. Also known as bruxism, it’s quite harmful to tooth enamel, weakening it to the point of cracking and yellowing.

How can I avoid yellow teeth?
Brushing, professional cleaning, whitening treatments and veneers should be your go-to solutions for yellow teeth. Thoroughly brushing your teeth twice a day to prevent yellow surface stains is a must. Some whitening toothpastes can help brighten yellow teeth, and it’s a great idea to floss once a day, as well. To tackle deeper intrinsic stains, visit your dental hygienist, who can gently clean away this unsightly bacteria and tartar and polish your teeth while you are in the dental chair. When it comes to stains on the enamel, however, prevention is important. Don’t smoke and limit your consumption of foods and drinks that cause yellowing themselves. Ultimately, rinse out your mouth with water after eating or drinking them. With so many options available for whitening discolored teeth, there’s no reason to feel embarrassed about their color. If you can’t fix the problem at home, your dentist will be happy to provide further guidance.

Do you have any questions about yellow teeth? Call Westermeier Martin Dental care to schedule an appointment with your dentist 716-508-4547.