It’s no secret that we all want a bright, white smile. Yellowed and discolored teeth are often associated with poor health and can have a negative impact on our confidence and mental health.
Surprisingly, yellow teeth are not always the result of poor personal hygiene. In fact, the culprit behind your yellow teeth could be your favorite food or drink. One thing is for sure, understanding the main causes of tooth discoloration and putting some easy remedies into practice can help you get rid of yellow teeth in just a few weeks.
What Causes Yellow or Discolored Teeth?
Understanding the possible causes of yellow teeth is essential for anyone who wants to maintain a pearly white smile. Before you try any at-home remedies or schedule a whitening appointment with your cosmetic dentist, you should learn more about why some teeth appear discolored and what options you might have to brighten your smile.
What is it about certain foods and drinks that stain your teeth? Tooth enamel is very porous, making it susceptible to stains penetrating its surface – causing that yellowish color. There are certain food compounds called “tannins” that make their color stick to your teeth enamel causing long-term discoloration. As a general rule, any food that can stain clothing can also stain teeth. In addition to highly pigmented foods and drinks, a diet high in sugar and simple carbohydrates can harbor bacteria and discolor teeth. Here are some foods and drinks to avoid if you want to avoid or get rid of yellow teeth:
- Red Wine
- Sports Drinks
- Fruit Juices
- Colored Candy and Sweets
- Popsicles & Slushies
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Soy Sauce
- Pasta/Tomato Sauces
- Berries: Blueberries, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, pomegranates
2. Aging and Acid Erosion
Teeth eventually turn yellow as you age, no matter how often you brush, rinse, or avoid certain acidic beverages.
However, enamel wears down faster due to exposure to acids from food and drink. According to the ADA, up to 80% of adults are at risk of enamel loss as a result of what they eat. As your enamel wears away, it exposes the yellow inner layer of the tooth (called dentin), which can lead to tooth sensitivity. Here are some of the most acidic foods and drinks to watch out for:
- Citrus Juices including lemon juice, orange juice, and grapefruit juice
- Carbonated Soft Drinks like sodas and sports drinks
- Citrus Fruits like oranges and lemons
- Tomatoes and tomato-based products
- Certain Dairy Products like yogurt, sour cream, and aged cheeses
Though not a surprise to many, you also can get stained, yellow, or brown teeth from smoking. Smoking is actually one of the top causes of yellow or brown teeth, and stains from smoking can be stubborn. But nicotine doesn’t just stain your teeth, it also causes your blood vessels to constrict or narrow, which limits your body’s ability to heal itself. This healing process is essential in your mouth since it is constantly undergoing a cycle of damage and repair
4. Poor Dental Hygiene
Stained or yellow teeth can also be a sign of plaque buildup or tooth decay. When you don’t brush and floss regularly, this allows bacteria and food particles to stick around in your mouth and cling to your teeth. Combine poor dental hygiene habits with any of the other factors on this list, and you've just created an oral environment particularly primed for stains and yellow teeth.
Genetics play a role in the brightness and thickness of your enamel, which can have a big impact on the apparent color of your teeth. Sometimes, tooth color runs in the family. If one of your parents' teeth are yellow, it's likely that yours are a similar hue. It also might be possible that you inherited teeth that stain more easily.
6. Excessive Fluoride
While fluoride is good for teeth, excessive fluoride exposure is also among the causes of stained or yellow teeth, especially in children. Fluoridated water, fluoride toothpaste and prescribed fluoride tablets and treatments are your biggest sources of fluoride.
7. Certain illnesses or Medication
Some medical conditions like metabolic diseases, calcium deficiency, liver disease or eating disorders may impact the tooth enamel, which can lead to changes in the color of your teeth. Certain medications including medications for asthma and high blood pressure are causes of yellow or stained teeth.
How To Prevent Yellow or Discolored Teeth?
Knowing what causes yellow teeth and stains is important for both treatment and prevention.
1. Preventing Discoloration Caused by Foods and Drinks
Since we can’t cut out every food that could possibly stain our teeth, here are a few tips that can help you minimize the degree to which your teeth could be affected:
- Use a straw. Always use a straw when drinking beverages as a way to keep the dark dyes, acidity, and colors away from your teeth.
- Brushing after you eat. After eating acidic foods, wait about 30 minutes before you brush. This gives your saliva a chance to wash away acids.
- When drinking a high-acid beverage, don’t swish it around or hold it in your mouth longer than you need to. Just sip and swallow.
- After an acidic meal or drink, rinse your mouth with water or have a glass of milk. Non-fermented dairy products and other calcium-rich foods can help neutralize acids.
- If you’re a coffee drinker or smoker, consider cutting back or quitting.
2. Preventing Discoloration Caused by Various Factors
Taking care of your teeth is all about honing healthy habits. With just a few simple lifestyle changes, you may be able to prevent tooth discoloration and yellow teeth:
- Brush your teeth for two minutes, first when you wake up and again before bed.
- Pick the right paste to be safe. Look for a whitening toothpaste with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. This means it’s dentist-approved.
- Floss between your teeth daily.
- Get regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings every six to twelve months.
How to Get Rid of Yellow Teeth?
If any of the causes of yellow or stained teeth have left you dissatisfied with your smile, there are several treatment options to consider for a whiter, brighter smile. From professional treatments to at-home whitening strips and gels, to home remedies, there are a variety of ways to say goodbye to stained teeth and achieve the perfect white smile of your dreams.
1. In-office whitening procedures
- Professional whitening: Professional teeth whitening is done at your dentist’s office and includes the application of a bleaching agent directly to your teeth to speed the whitening process. Some products may require heat with a special light to accelerate the bleaching process. Depending on the initial level of color of your stained teeth, you may have one or several treatments that range from approximately 30 minutes to two hours.
- Dental bonding is a procedure in which your dentist applies a white resin to your tooth and hardens it with a special curing light. The light ‘bonds' the resin to the tooth to improve the color and structure of your smile.
- Veneers are custom-made porcelain ‘shells’ designed to cover the front of the tooth to improve the color and shape of your smile. They are fragile: about the size and thickness of a false fingernail.
- Dental crowns are placed to protect, cover and restore damaged teeth and can whiten your smile. Your dentist can customize a crown’s color to match your other teeth.
2. At-home whitening
At-home teeth-whitening options are more economical and include over the-counter whitening strips and gels, all of which use peroxide-based chemistry. Initial results are typically seen in just a few days and last for up to twelve months for products.
3. Home Remedies
While we highly recommend consulting with your dentist about your stained teeth before starting a whitening program or remedy, here are 3 natural options for getting rid of yellow teeth:
- Brush with baking soda: Baking soda has natural whitening properties, which is why it’s a popular ingredient in commercial toothpaste. Additionally, baking soda creates an alkaline environment in your mouth, which prevents bacteria from growing.
While science has not yet proven that brushing with plain baking soda will whiten your teeth, but several studies show that toothpaste containing baking soda has a significant whitening effect. To use this remedy, mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 2 teaspoons of water and brush your teeth with the paste. You can do this a few times per week.
- Use hydrogen peroxide (mixed with baking soda): Hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleaching agent that also kills bacteria in your mouth. Many commercial whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide, although at a much higher concentration than you will use.
There are, however, some questions regarding the safety of hydrogen peroxide.
While heavily diluted concentrations appear safe, strong concentrations or overuse can cause gum irritation and tooth sensitivity.
To use this remedy, combine 2 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide with 1 teaspoon of baking soda and gently brush your teeth with the mixture.
Limit the use of this homemade paste to a few times per week, as overuse can erode your tooth enamel.
- Coconut oil pulling: This method involves swishing your mouth with one or two teaspoons of coconut oil for about 10 to 30 minutes. When you have finished swishing, simply spit out the oil, rinse your mouth, and drink a full glass of water to hydrate. A 2015 study found that oil pulling or swishing in the mouth with coconut oil could be an effective way to reduce plaque buildup on the teeth. As plaque buildup can contribute to yellowing, it follows that coconut oil pulling may reduce discoloration.
The bottom line
Even though it might make us self-conscious, teeth discoloration is incredibly common, and it can result from a wide range of issues, many of which are easy to prevent and manage.
From home remedies to in-office treatments and at-home whitening solutions, there are multiple solutions to help you get rid of yellow teeth. We highly recommend to always check with your dentist about your options and which would work best for you.
And after you have worked hard to whiten your teeth, you’ll want to keep your smile bright and white by creating an optimal oral care routine. Focus on maintaining good oral hygiene practices such as brushing, flossing, and rinsing every day. Products like our D2 Electric Toothbrush make your oral care routine easy and ensure that you don’t miss a spot when you clean your mouth.