Though not as urgent as other dental conditions, yellow teeth can cost you your confidence and willingness to smile every day. Luckily, improving the colour of your teeth can be as simple as changing what you eat and drink while polishing your oral care routine. You may even benefit from a whitening treatment by your dentist. Here are ten common causes of this undesirable tinge:
Sometimes, tooth colour runs in the family. If one of your parents' teeth are yellow, it's likely that yours are a similar hue. Reddish brown, reddish yellow, grey and reddish grey are the four natural shades of otherwise white teeth, and this depth of colour varies across a spectrum from light to dark.
Teeth look yellow when the enamel is thin and the dentine underneath shows through it. Dentine 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 dentine, but keep in mind that it doesn't always block the stains that build up on the surface, another cause of yellow explained further down.
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 greyish shade when mixed with a lasting food stain.
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.
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 colour on your teeth.
Coffee and tea are two of the most common causes of yellow teeth, but red and white wine are also to blame. Other culprits include dark and light sodas and sports drinks with artificial flavouring.
Tetracycline antibiotics stain teeth when they're developing in the gums. According to the National Institutes of Health in the United States, if your mother took antibiotics in the second half of her pregnancy, or you took them before the age of eight, you may have permanently stained adult teeth that merit an in-office bleaching treatment.
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 fluoride through these means.
Impact of an accident or physical trauma can crack tooth enamel and damage the tooth's interior, leading to discolouration that may indicate bleeding that needs professional attention.
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.