As we get older, some of us find ourselves smiling a little smaller in social media pics. Our pearly whites aren’t quite so pearly, and we’re left with yellowing teeth that can make us self-conscious. Yellow teeth are often related to lifestyle factors, like smoking or what we eat and drink. But outside stains aren’t the only cause of yellow teeth. In some cases, internal health factors or just the aging process can cause teeth to turn yellow. The best solution depends on the cause.
Yellow Teeth: Lifestyle and Habits
When most of us think of tooth discoloration, we think of stains from outside sources, and these often play a big role. The good news is that stains caused by external factors are usually easier to address. Here are some of the lifestyle choices that can lead to yellow teeth:
- Smoking and tobacco use: tobacco is one of the biggest factors in tooth discoloration and one of the easiest to tackle with support from your dentist
- Coffee and tea
- Sodas (including diet sodas)
- Red wine
- Certain foods–including some healthy fruits and vegetables like dark berries
- Poor oral hygiene: if you don’t brush and floss properly and regularly, it can lead to discoloration because of a buildup of plaque
Yellow Teeth: Aging, Genetics and Medical Issues
Tooth discoloration often goes below the surface. Here are some of the health factors that can lead to yellow teeth:
- Aging and genetics: For most of us, the hard tissue tissue inside our teeth (called dentin) is naturally yellow. As we age, the protective outer layer of enamel tends to get thinner. The yellowish dentin begins to show through, giving our teeth a yellow shade. Some of us are also genetically predisposed to thin enamel, which also contributes to yellowing teeth.
- Medications: certain medications can cause tooth discoloration from the inside. These include strong antibiotics like tetracycline or doxycycline along with certain acne treatments and more common medicines like antihistamines and blood pressure medication, according to the American Dental Association.
- Illness and medical treatments: certain illnesses, including some gastrointestinal conditions, can cause tooth discoloration. Chemotherapy and radiation related to cancer treatment can also cause teeth to turn yellow.
- Injury: sometimes when a tooth is injured in an accident, it becomes discolored from within because of damage to the inner tissue.
How Can I Prevent Yellow Teeth?
Change your habits: Patients don’t always like to hear this, but one of the best ways to prevent yellow teeth is to avoid some of the habits that cause them. We encourage every patient to quit smoking and tobacco use for a number of oral health reasons but also for cosmetic reasons. Stopping tobacco use is the very best way to keep your teeth healthy and white. Cutting back on coffee, red wine and some of the other staining foods and beverages can also help.
Brush and floss: regular brushing and flossing keeps plaque from building up and is an important part of keeping healthy teeth white. Brushing and flossing right after consuming staining foods or drinks can also help keep teeth white.
Eat healthy: good nutrition is an important way to keep your teeth healthy as you age. Getting the right vitamins and minerals helps overall oral health and can help enamel stay strong and white.
What Treatments Are Available For Yellow Teeth?
For surface stains caused by eating and drinking, there are a number of whitening options available. Depending on your budget and the level of discoloration, you can choose from the following:
- Whitening toothpastes offer basic whitening thanks to gentle abrasives.
- Over the counter bleaching products feature low concentrations of peroxide that you can safely use at home. They cost less than treatments from your dentist but take longer to work.
- Take home trays from your dentist: this increasingly popular option is a middle ground between drugstore products and in-office treatment. Your dentist prepares a customized at-home kit with a tray made for you and clear instructions for best results.
- In-office bleaching: the most effective way to tackle surface stains, in-office whitening allows your dentist to safely use stronger concentrations of peroxide for a brighter smile in just one visit.
Yellow Teeth: Cosmetic Dentistry for More Complex Issues
For yellowing or discoloration related to thinning enamel, health issues or injury, topical whitening products won’t help. When discoloration has a deeper cause, it’s time to look into cosmetic dentistry. Many of our patients with thinning enamel have had terrific success with restorations including veneers and crowns. A veneer is a thin layer of porcelain bonded to the front of your teeth, while a crown is a thicker layer of material that covers the entire tooth. In both cases, they can be used to cover yellowing teeth with a whiter shade. For a tooth discolored by injury, your dentist can recommend treatment (usually a crown or root canal) after an exam.
Concerned About Yellow Teeth? Talk to Your Dentist
Yellowing and discolored teeth are way more common than many of us realize. And just so you know, those friends with the perfect smile often get there with help from a good dentist. At Greenhill Family Dentistry, we’ve helped patients address yellowing teeth from a wide range of causes to achieve a whiter smile. From customized whitening trays and bleaching in the dentist’s chair to veneers for more challenging issues, our office is ready to help you meet your cosmetic dentistry goals and smile big again.