Though not as urgent as other dental conditions, yellow teeth can cost you your confidence and propensity to smile every day. Luckily, improving the colour of your teeth can be as simple as changing what you eat and drink, combined with some tweaks to your oral care routine. You may even benefit from 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, gray and reddish gray 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 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 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 the 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. 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 that you or your child may be getting too much fluoride from these sources.
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.
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.
Avoiding 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, and whitening toothpaste will brighten yellow teeth with regular use. Floss your teeth once a day, as well. To tackle deeper intrinsic stains, visit your dental hygienist, who can gently clean away these unsightly germs and tartar, and polish your teeth while you are in the dental chair.
When it comes to stains on the enamel, however, prevention is better than cure. Don't smoke, and limit your consumption of foods and drinks that cause yellowing. Moreover, rinse out your mouth with water after eating or drinking them.
With so many options available for whitening discoloured teeth, there's no reason to feel embarrassed about their colour. If you can't fix the problem at home, your dentist would be happy to provide further guidance.