What Makes Teeth Yellow?

One of the main goals of good oral health care is to create an enhanced smile complete with pearly whites. We see those dazzling smiles in the movies and magazines and think that clean, white teeth are the norm. The truth of the matter is that most people’s smiles are a bit duller. Throughout the years, what we eat, what we drink and the bad habits we possess affect the color of our teeth.

Many things can cause tooth discoloration, turning them that undesirable yellowish hue. Lifestyle choices and even health issues can produce this unwanted side effect. However, it’s most commonly caused by staining. Staining to our teeth usually falls under two categories — extrinsic and intrinsic stains.

Extrinsic Vs. Intrinsic Stains

The outermost layer of our teeth is a harder-than-bone material called enamel. Despite its toughness, enamel is quite susceptible to extrinsic stains that are found on the surface of the teeth. Most of these stains are caused by the foods we eat and other habits.

Intrinsic stains, on the other hand, occur within the teeth. A variety of factors can alter the light-transmitting properties of both enamel and the underlying dentin. This type of staining is often caused by different medications, but it can also be caused by an excess of fluoride, especially when too much is found in a community’s drinking water.

Watch What You Eat

One of the main reasons people develop yellow or discolored teeth is the foods or drinks they consume. Coffees and teas are the number one culprits, followed closely by other dark-colored options, including:

  • Soda
  • Red wine
  • Coffee and Tea
  • Dark sauces
  • Fruits like blueberries, grapes and pomegranates

These items are high in a pigment-producing substance called chromogen, which sticks to tooth enamel and can become embedded in the cracks and ridges of your teeth.

Habits That Lead to Teeth Discoloration

The other top offender for yellow teeth is tobacco. Whether you smoke or chew, this habit often leads to an unpleasant yellowish or brownish discoloration. Your teeth are covered in pores, similar to your skin. And both nicotine and tar absorb into these pores causing discoloration. Nicotine starts out colorless, but when combined with oxygen it produces a yellow hue.

Chewing tobacco when mixed with saliva creates a brown liquid that easily leads to staining. Those who chew develop a brownish hue in their teeth because they often leave the tobacco resting in their mouth against their teeth. Although most staining caused by tobacco starts out as extrinsic stains, they can become intrinsic over years of use.

Other Common Factors That Lead to Yellow Teeth

A variety of other factors come into play that can lead to tooth discoloration. Certain medications can sometimes cause intrinsic staining, including:

  • Antibiotics taken while children’s teeth are still developing
  • Prescription strength mouthwash to treat gingivitis
  • Some acne medications
  • Antihistamines
  • Albuterol
  • Blood pressure medications

However, age, health and genetics play a huge role in teeth discoloration as well. As we age, our tooth enamel gets thinner, sometimes causing teeth to appear slightly yellowed. Certain health conditions can also lead to teeth becoming discolored. Genetics is another factor affecting the color of some people’s teeth. Just like eye color, some individuals have teeth with a slightly more yellow appearance. Additionally, two inherited genetic disorders lead to teeth discoloration — dentinogenesis imperfecta and amelogenesis imperfecta.

Turn to Dental Choice for Teeth Whitening Solutions

If you struggle with yellow teeth, we may be able to help. Dental Choice offers ways to enhance the appearance of your smile with our teeth whitening options, including Zoom!® Teeth Whitening. Schedule an appointment today. Our team is here to help you have the confidence to smile bright.


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