Maintaining good dental hygiene is crucial for a healthy mouth and a confident smile. However, many individuals find themselves puzzled when they notice their teeth appearing yellow, despite diligently brushing them every day.
There are many likely reasons for this. But first and foremost, you should understand that your teeth are not naturally white in color. This is to say that, even if you exercised proper oral hygiene and avoid deep colored drinks, like wine and black tea, and never smoked or used smokeless tobacco products a day in your life, your teeth still wouldn’t be completely white.
Secondly, if you noticed that your teeth were getting discolored over time, perhaps due to age or staining from the food and drinks you consume, and tried to brush thoroughly to reverse the discoloration, this too would not necessarily improve their shade. That is because regular brushing with a fluoride toothpaste is not intended to whiten teeth, but rather to maintain oral health by reducing plaque and bacteria build up, which can in turn prevent discoloration provided tartar is not formed.
Now we can look at the primary reasons why your teeth seem yellow:
Understanding Tooth Discoloration
Tooth discoloration can be categorized into two main types: extrinsic and intrinsic causes. Extrinsic factors are those that affect the outer layer of the teeth, while intrinsic factors involve changes within the tooth structure itself.
Causes of extrinsic tooth discoloration include:
- Food and beverages: Certain foods and drinks with strong pigments, such as coffee, tea, red wine, and berries, can gradually stain the outer layer of the teeth over time.
- Tobacco use: Smoking or chewing tobacco can lead to yellow or brown stains on the teeth due to the tar and nicotine present in these products.
- Poor oral hygiene: Inadequate brushing and flossing can allow plaque and tartar buildup, which can cause teeth to appear yellow or discolored.
Causes of intrinsic tooth discoloration include:
- Tooth structure and genetics: Some individuals naturally have teeth with a darker shade due to variations in enamel thickness and the underlying dentin color, which can be influenced by genetics.
- Vitamin and mineral deficiency: Lack of vitamin D is essential, which is essential for the absorption of calcium and phosphate, resulting in enamel defects and tooth discoloration.
- Aging: As we age, the enamel on our teeth naturally wears down, revealing the yellowish dentin underneath. This can contribute to the appearance of yellow teeth.
- Certain medications: Some medications, such as tetracycline antibiotics, antihistamines, and certain antipsychotic drugs, as well as excess fluoride, can cause tooth discoloration, especially when taken during tooth development in childhood.
Tooth Discoloration from Plaque and Tartar
Plaque is the sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. If not adequately removed through regular brushing and flossing, plaque can contribute to tooth discoloration by accumulating pigments from food and beverages.
When plaque is not effectively removed, it can harden and turn into tartar, also known as dental calculus. Tartar is a yellow or brown mineral deposit that adheres to the teeth, making them appear darker and more stained. Unfortunately, once it forms, it cannot be removed by regular brushing at home to improve the shade of your teeth.
Rather, you need to visit your dentist for professional cleanings every six months to remove plaque and tartar buildup that cannot be eliminated through regular brushing. These routine cleanings can help restore the natural color of the teeth and prevent further discoloration.
Other Factors Influencing Tooth Color
Enamel thickness and translucency
The thickness and translucency of tooth enamel play a role in the overall appearance of tooth color. Thinner enamel can make the underlying dentin more visible, which may contribute to a yellowish hue. (dentin is typically a pale yellow in color, which is what is visible through the translucent enamel, as your natural tooth color.
Acidic and abrasive oral care products
Frequent use of highly acidic or abrasive toothpaste, mouthwashes, or whitening products can erode the enamel, exposing the yellowish dentin underneath and causing teeth to appear yellow.
Medical conditions and treatments
Certain medical conditions, such as enamel hypoplasia or dental fluorosis, can affect the development and appearance of tooth enamel, leading to discoloration. Additionally, some dental treatments, such as root canal therapy or dental restorations, may cause teeth to appear darker.
How can you maintain a bright smile without yellowing teeth?
Although brushing your teeth at least twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily cannot whiten your teeth, it can help prevent plaque buildup and minimize tooth discoloration from tartar.
In addition, you should:
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste specifically formulated to remove stains to help remove surface stains and maintain a brighter smile.
- Cut back on or avoid heavily pigmented foods and drinks, such as coffee, tea, and red wine to prevent further staining of the teeth.
- Rinse your mouth with clean water after consuming acidic or heavily pigmented foods to reduce tooth enamel erosion or the likelihood of black or brown stains forming
- Get proper nutrition to avoid vitamin deficiency discoloration can also be beneficial, especially vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus.
- Avoid excess Fluoride due to the risk of tooth staining especially in early childhood.
- Stop smoking
- Visit your dentist every six months for routine professional cleanings
How can you improve the Appearance of Yellow Teeth?
Improving the appearance of yellow teeth discoloration can be achieved through both professional and home remedies. Here are some options to consider:
Professional Teeth Whitening
For noticeable and fast results, consulting a dentist for professional teeth whitening is recommended. Dentists can use various techniques such as in-office bleaching or laser whitening to effectively remove deep stains and discoloration. These treatments are tailored to individual needs and provide more dramatic results compared to home remedies.
If you’re looking for a long-lasting solution to address yellow teeth, dental veneers can be a viable option. Veneers are thin porcelain shells that are custom-made to fit over the front surface of your teeth, effectively hiding discoloration and providing a bright, white appearance. This cosmetic procedure can transform your smile and address other concerns like misshapen or crooked teeth.
Home Remedies for Surface Stains
You can also try various home remedies first to target surface stains and discoloration, though they may not provide as dramatic results as professional treatments.
- Creating a paste by mixing baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Gently brushing your teeth with this paste can help remove surface stains. Remember to rinse thoroughly with water afterward.
- Oil pulling, using a mixture of oil (such as coconut oil) and swishing it in your mouth for several minutes can help whiten teeth.
- Rinsing your mouth with a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar or using charcoal toothpaste are other options to explore.
However, it’s important to note that these home remedies are not scientifically proven, and improper use or excessive scrubbing can potentially damage your tooth enamel. Therefore, it’s advisable to consult with your dentist before trying any home remedy or using over-the-counter teeth whitening kits.
If yellow teeth are a significant concern, consulting a dentist is recommended. They can provide professional advice and offer treatments like teeth whitening procedures to help improve the appearance of teeth.
Remember, while teeth may not be naturally white, a confident smile comes from a healthy mouth.