When brushing twice a day and flossing doesn't help improve your yellow teeth, it's time to consider other options. Teeth become yellow due to stains – both deep and surface-level – as well as other causes that sometimes aren't under our control. Whether the discolouration is due to staining or other factors, several over-the-counter (OTC) products can improve tooth colour, and your dentist can also offer preventative advice on how to whiten yellow teeth.
What Causes Yellow Teeth?
Although coffee and cigarettes leave stains on your teeth over time, thin tooth enamel also makes teeth look yellow. Tooth enamel is the hard, white surface of your teeth, and underneath it is a pale brown substance called dentin. Thick enamel looks white, but thin enamel allows dentin tones to show through, making teeth look yellow from the outside. Enamel naturally wears thin as people age, but acids from food and drink such as sour sweets, oranges and fizzy drinks also thin the enamel by eroding its surface. Dr. Mervyn Druian, spokesperson for the British Dental Association, says that even fizzy vitamin supplements weaken your teeth.
Saliva neutralises acid and washes it away, but people suffering from dry mouth miss out on this protective effect. For example, children who breathe through their mouths due to blocked nasal passages can prevent saliva from moisturising the mouth when it's closed – putting them at risk of developing thin tooth enamel.
Other causes of yellow teeth include antibiotic use or excessive fluoride intake in young children, which can cause yellow-stained adult teeth later. However, according to Dr Paula Waterhouse of the University of Newcastle, it's more likely the diseases themselves cause the damage rather than antibiotics. Sometimes yellow teeth just run in the family.
Preventing Yellow Teeth
Avoiding smoking, coffee and fizzy drinks helps prevent yellow teeth, or you can get into the habit of drinking those darker beverages through a straw. Drink milk or plain water after eating or drinking something acidic to help reduce the acid's erosive effect. Brushing and flossing also help, and avoiding snacks between meals allows your saliva to dilute the acids in your mouth, too.
If you're concerned that you or your child suffers from dry mouth, consult your doctor, and always use fluoride products as per your dentist's advice.
Whitening Yellow Teeth
OTC products such as whitening pens are a convenient and affordable way to get whiter teeth, and can lift yellow tones in your teeth by removing stains and providing a mild bleaching effect when used as directed. Other products include whitening trays and even mouthwashes.
Discolourations are generally responsive to bleaching procedures, and dentists can advise on how to whiten yellow teeth, depending on your case. Your dentist can provide bleaching kits to take home and use over a period of time, as well as in-office bleaching procedures. However, they might recommend waiting until all your child's permanent front teeth have appeared before using a bleaching treatment, so that newer teeth aren't a different colour from bleached baby teeth.
With so many ways to treat yellow teeth, there's no reason to hide a beautiful smile.