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What causes teeth to yellow?

What causes teeth to yellow?

You’re out on the town with friends and snapping a few selfies when something stops you dead in your tracks — yellow teeth. Before deleting the photo you zoom in on the culprits and wonder when and how did this happen? Yellowing of the teeth is sort of like weight gain. It creeps up on you gradually, and you usually don’t notice it until your pants don’t fit. Although yellowing of the teeth usually isn’t a cause for concern, it can definitely impact your confidence.

Lots of things can make your teeth yellow, actually. Think of your teeth like a white t-shirt. Stain-causing foods and beverages, wear and tear over time, and improper care can all cause that once white t-shirt to fade and look less than dazzling. But with a little TLC, you can help restore it.So, what are some common causes of yellow teeth?


Blame it all on your roots. The same way eye color is hereditary so is the natural color of your teeth. Teeth comes in all different hues but are classified into four main color categories: reddish brown, reddish yellow, gray and reddish gray. The good news is that teeth whitening products can help, no matter what category yours fall into.


Just like tires, our teeth experience wear and tear as we age. This is due to the enamel, the shiny white outermost protective covering, fading and thinning over time. Plus, as the enamel thins, the dentin becomes more visible. Dentin is calcified tissue (almost bone-like) that makes up a majority of your tooth’s composition and ranges in yellow to brown in appearance. Unlike enamel, dentin cannot be whitened. That means you may not be able to get your teeth to your desired hue, depending on the color of your dentin or how thin your enamel is.

Foods and drinks

Coffee, tea, wine, sodas, sugar, berries, as well as citric and acidic foods and drinks can all stain your teeth. Whew. That’s quite the list when you think about all of the things that fall into those categories. Now that doesn’t mean you have to avoid all of these things. Just be mindful that they contribute to surface stains and be sure to properly clean your teeth following consumption of these staining foods and drinks.


Aside from wreaking havoc on your health and causing your breath to reek, tobacco can also cause severe staining of your teeth over time. It doesn’t matter if your preferred method is cigarettes, a pipe, a cigar or dip, tobacco is tobacco is tobacco.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Brush, floss, rinse and repeat twice a day. This is essential to prevent plaque and tartar buildup. Although plaque is colorless, it can turn into tartar if not removed through proper oral care. Tartar is yellow, hard and unsightly, and can only be removed by your dentist.

How can I whiten my teeth?

Now that you know some common cause of yellow teeth, what can you do about it? Fortunately, the tooth whitening market is huge. There are a number of over-the-counter teeth whitening options available at different price points, including toothpastes, rinses, strips and bleaching trays. However, the quickest and most effective way to whiten your teeth is with in-office teeth whitening. Your dentist can custom fit you for a teeth whitening tray, or perform laser teeth whitening. The downside to both of these professional teeth whitening treatments is that they can be costly. Custom whitening trays can cost a few hundred dollars, while laser teeth whitening is in the ballpark of $1000 per treatment. Plus, teeth whitening is considered a cosmetic procedure, meaning it will not be covered by dental insurance.

Cosmetic dental coverage

If you’re determined to have whiter teeth but don’t want to pay full price, look into a dental savings plan. A dental savings plan, also called a dental discount plan, is an alternative to dental insurance that works like a club membership and offers discounts on dental work, even cosmetic. You pay an annual membership fee in exchange for access to a network of more than 100,000 dental professionals who provide discounts between 10% and 60% on dental work.

Among the many advantages of a dental savings plan is that you will receive discounts on all of these dental services:

  • Basic/preventative
  • Restorative
  • Orthodontics
  • Cosmetic
  • Dentures/Implants
  • Oral surgery

Plus, it can be used as a supplement to dental insurance if you already have a policy.

Treating yellow teeth

Now that you know some of the top causes of yellow teeth, you can start putting preventative and restorative measures in place to get your smile back, as well as boost your confidence. Look into the over-the-counter and professional teeth whitening options mentioned above to find the teeth whitening treatment that will work best for you.

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