Yellow teeth: what causes them & do you need to worry about it?

Yellow teeth: what causes them & do you need to worry about it?

You have only got to switch on the TV or open a magazine to be presented with images of what are portrayed at ‘cosmetically perfect’ smiles.  Two rows of perfectly aligned and brilliant white teeth.

Well, it may not surprise you to hear that what we see in the media is not really all natural.

It is very rare for teeth to be a perfect shade of white.

If you are concerned about your teeth being yellow, that they are darker than they once were, or are dark in comparison to other people, it is probably reassuring to know that this is quite natural and is not necessarily a sign of poor health.

What makes teeth appear yellow is in part outside of your control, but there are things you can do to delay or limit the yellowing on teeth.

This article covers all you need to know about what causes yellow teeth, how to manage them and how to get them whiter.

If you’re concerned about the colour of your teeth, we recommend checking out our video below, the rest of this page, and our teeth whitening hub page.

Watch Our Teeth Whitening Video Course

The short answer on yellow teeth

For those who want a quick answer to the subject of yellow teeth, bear the following in mind:

  • Do not believe all that you hear and read about yellow teeth.
    • Naturally yellow teeth are normal, few people have teeth that are naturally bright white.
  • There are many different causes of yellow teeth, primarily lifestyle and age.
    • Most yellowing is staining to the external surface of the tooth as a result of lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking and eating certain foods.
    • This extrinsic staining can be removed and the teeth made whiter without too much expense or effort.
    • Ageing and genetics causes the teeth to yellow but is irreversible.
  • There are several different solutions to stop or reverse the yellowing.
    • Brushing and flossing regularly, whilst quitting or reducing smoking can result in big improvements.
    • Drinking water after eating and drinking can help reduce yellowing.
    • Cosmetic treatments, notably professional whitening, offer quick and effective results

Are yellow teeth normal?

Everybody has different coloured teeth. Some teeth are more grey whilst some are more yellow. In most cases, slightly yellow teeth are both normal and healthy. The only cause for concern would be a sudden change in colour.

Dr Gemma WheelerIn-house dentist – GDC Number: 259369

The remainder of this article goes into much more detail and provides more insight to allow you to better understand the causes of yellowing and what you can or cannot do about it.

Photo of very yellow teeth

Common misconceptions about tooth colour

The internet, in particular, is awash with information that you cannot always believe.  Friends and family can also tell us things that are not quite as true as they might seem.

It’s safe to say teeth whitening is one of the more confusing topics in dentistry.

Below I bust a few of the most common myths about tooth colour.

1. Teeth should naturally be bright white

No, this is not the case.

Yes, a few people do have very white teeth that are all natural.  But, for the vast majority of us, our teeth are a few shades darker.

So, if your teeth are not as white as the A4 paper in your printer, you need not be too concerned.

As explained in the next section of this article, the inner structure of the tooth has a natural yellow tint to it.

The outer layer of enamel is actually translucent and lets the colour of the tissues below show through.

Photo of very white teeth

2. Wearing braces will turn your teeth yellow

No.  Failing to clean your teeth properly when wearing braces turns your teeth yellow.

Braces are there to simply move the teeth, and there is no reason for this to cause the teeth to turn yellow.

I wore a brace for 2 years and my teeth did not turn yellow.

The braces and the nooks and crannies it creates makes this an ideal environment for bacteria build up and form plaque.  When left and not properly removed, the plaque can turn to tartar, which is much more prone to staining, depending on what you put in your mouth.

If you’re concerned about tooth colour whilst wearing braces, see our article on teeth whitening with braces.

3. Using a straw will stop the discolouration of your teeth

As will be explained in more detail shortly, certain drinks can encourage the yellowing of teeth.

Drinking these drinks through a straw may well reduce the amount of contact a substance has with a tooth, but the act of swallowing will have the liquid swish around the mouth and all over the teeth.

So, despite best efforts, the tooth is still touched by these liquids, so there is no real benefit to be gained here.

A particularly yellow tooth

Teeth whitening myths & facts

Following on from the myths above, we’ve put together the video below with our in-house dentist Dr Chhaya Chauhan, which runs through some of the most common teeth whitening myths and facts.

Watch Our Teeth Whitening Video Course

The tooth structure

To understand the yellowing of the teeth it is helpful to first understand the tooth structure.

Essentially the tooth is made up of 3 layers, enamel, dentine and pulp.

It is the enamel and dentine that are of most interest to us in relation to yellow teeth.

Illustration of the structure of the tooth

The top external layer of the tooth is the enamel.

The enamel is the visible layer of protection around the tooth and the part you and I see when looking at natural teeth.

It is the enamel surface layer that is exposed to all that we put in our mouths and the part of the teeth we brush and floss clean.

It may well be the hardest substance in the human body, stronger than the bones that make up your skeleton, however, it can still be damaged.

Below this enamel layer is a softer tissue called dentine which forms the bulk of the tooth structure.

Dentine has a natural yellow/pale brown colour to it.

Whilst the outer layer of enamel is often seen or considered to be white, in reality, it is more translucent and in part acts as a window through to the dentine that sits below.

The thickness of the enamel and the colour of dentine differs from one person to another.  This means the natural tooth colour differ.

Some teeth are also naturally darker than the other teeth in your mouth.  It is perfectly normal for the upper canines to e a shade or two darker than the other teeth.

Those with thick enamel and very pale dentine will be blessed with the most white natural teeth, whilst those with thin enamel and dark coloured dentine will have the yellower looking teeth.

Because there is natural variation in enamel thickness and dentine colour, natural tooth colour can vary from grey to yellow to white.  This is shown in the natural colour guide used most commonly by dentists, the Vita Shade Guide.

“In my experience, shade A3.5 is one of the most common natural tooth colours” says in-house dentist Dr Gemma Wheeler “and you can see that is in the darker half of the Vita Shade Guide”.

Why are my teeth yellow?

The specific reason as to why your teeth are yellow can differ, but the overarching causes are either:

  • Lifestyle
  • Ageing

Lifestyle choices usually stain the exterior surface of the tooth, giving it a more yellow appearance. This is within your control.

Ageing and genetics change the tooth both internally and externally.  Most notable is that the enamel thins over the years and shows off more of the yellow dentine below.  A natural process that affects us all. This is outside your control.

Lifestyle is most commonly what makes teeth yellow.

Watch Our Teeth Whitening Video Course

The difference between teeth staining and yellowing

The terms staining and yellowing are often used interchangeably in relation to teeth discolouration.

Whilst both cause discolouration or dulling of the natural tooth colour, there are subtle differences between staining and yellowing, not to mention the options available to treat each condition.

Staining is either on the outside or inside of the tooth.

Extrinsic staining, as it is technically known, is where the enamel layer on the outside of the tooth has discoloured or marked, whereas intrinsic staining involves the dentine inside the tooth.  Staining will generally affect parts, but not all, of the tooth.

The cause of extrinsic staining is often known or clearly identifiable.  Most often these are lifestyle factors such as smoking or consuming tannin and chromogen rich food and drink.

Intrinsic staining tends to be as a result of medications or conditions such as fluorosis.

Yellowing is more often related to genetics or ageing rather than lifestyle.  Whilst this will normally cause a change in colour for the whole tooth, or teeth, it is possible for it to show as bands across the teeth.

The most common ageing effect on the teeth is the thinning of the enamel, exposing more of the natural dentine colour and in turn yellowing the look of the tooth.

Despite the causes being different, stains tend to give the tooth a yellowish colour.

There are very clear similarities between staining and yellowing and you can probably understand how the terms are used interchangeably like they are.

The reality is, some yellowing of the teeth is completely natural, whilst some of it is as a result of the way we live our lives.

With natural yellowing, there is little we can do, but, the yellowing as a result of our lifestyle, means there are actionable steps we can take to improve the colour.


Sometimes even healthy teeth can look yellow. However coloured food such as curries can stain teeth yellow.

Dr Chhaya ChauhanIn-house dentist – GDC Number: 83940

What causes yellow teeth?

Age and lifestyle are 2 broad terms to explain the yellowing effect on our teeth.

It is time to get a bit more specific and better understand the reasons and what makes teeth yellow.

I have compiled a list of 12 common reasons why your teeth may well be yellow or stained.

  1. Smoking
  2. Poor oral hygiene
  3. Food
  4. Drinks
  5. Ageing
  6. Genetics
  7. Disease
  8. Medication
  9. Accidents & Trauma
  10. Environment
  11. Grinding
  12. Dentine

Let’s take a closer look at each reason.

Smoking

Yellow teeth from smoking are extremely common.

Chemicals and ingredients within the cigarettes and cigars seep into the pores of the enamel as the smoke is inhaled.  Over time this stains and penetrates the enamel causing a yellow hue or brown marks to build up, on the teeth.

Poor oral hygiene

The recommendation is to brush twice a day for 2 minutes each time and floss once a day.

If you brush for less than this, you are not cleaning the teeth properly and removing the bacteria and substances that can stain and discolour the teeth.

Improper removal of plaque causes the plaque to harden into tartar, which is very easy to stain.

Foods that stain teeth

Foods have something called chromogens, which have strong pigments that stick to the tooth enamel.

Other foods have tannins, which are plant based compounds that create the conditions for stains to stick to the teeth in the first place.

So, whilst food is essential for us to live, it is also one of the causes of the yellowed teeth.

Some food stuffs are worse than others, well known foods that can stain the teeth are:

  • Curry
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Tomato based sauces
  • Soy sauce
  • Beetroot

Foods stain the tooth enamel and do not cause internal staining.

Watch Our Teeth Whitening Video Course

Drinks

Just like the food we consume, drinks contain those same compounds that are great at sticking to and yellowing our teeth.

Popular drinks known to yellow teeth include:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Red wine
  • White wine
  • Alcohol
  • Sport drinks
  • Artificially flavoured drinks
  • Freshly squeezed juices

Drinks can cause staining because of their colour or can accelerate the wear of the tooth enamel so more dentine shows.  Drinks do not cause internal staining.

Ageing

A fact of life that is that as we get older our bodies change.  The teeth are no exception.

As the body ages and the teeth are repeatedly exposed to food stuffs, pressed against each other as we chew, this ever so gradually wears away or thins the enamel on the outer edge of the tooth.

The thinner the enamel, the more of the yellowish dentine material shows through, giving teeth that yellow hue.

Man with aged teeth

Genetics

For some, the genes you inherit from the generation before you play a key role in the colour of your teeth.

Some people naturally have more yellow teeth than others, whilst some are blessed with thick layers of enamel that make the teeth look much whiter than most.

Genetics cannot be controlled.  So although you can look at your parents as part of the reason why your teeth might be yellow, they have no control, so can’t be blamed entirely.

Disease

Certain medical conditions will affect the teeth and age them prematurely.

Some diseases affect the thickness of the enamel and dentine and how prone they are to wear, for example, amelogenesis imperfecta.

This can lead to external staining or yellowing.

Medication

Certain medications, be those prescribed or not can lead to the yellowing of the teeth.  Sadly this affects the inside, rather than the exterior of the tooth, most of the time.

Diseases that require very strong medications or medical treatments such as chemotherapy are known to have a yellowing effect on the inside of the tooth.

Antihistamines such as Benadryl, antipsychotic drugs, as well as tetracycline and doxycycline (antibiotics), have been known to cause such tooth discolouration.

Chlorhexidine is an ingredient used in some mouthwashes, and is particularly helpful in managing the early stages of gum disease — Corsodyl is a well known rinse that contains such. If used repeatedly or for longer than a week or so, it can too leave the teeth looking much duller.

Accidents & Trauma

Physical damage or impacts to a tooth can affect the enamel and dentine and in turn the colour of the tooth.

If a tooth has died off, whether or not you have had root canal therapy, the tooth can often become discoloured.  This is because the waste products in the dying pulp seep out into the dentine causing it to turn darker.

Environment

You probably know that you should use a fluoride based toothpaste for good oral health.

Some parts of the world have very high amounts of fluoride in the water (such as some parts of the USA, or India).  This may cause too much fluoride to be swallowed which can then be deposited in bones and teeth.

As important as a small amount of fluoride applied to the teeth is, having too much fluoride in your body can lead to conditions such as fluorosis.

Where the body has been exposed to too much fluoride the teeth can be affected, causing a yellowing of the whole tooth or just spots of white or yellow on the surface.

Grinding

Also known as bruxism, this is a process where the teeth are put under pressure and stress as they rub against each other, at times when it is not required.

It can affect anyone but is common amongst those who are stressed or have a trigger that causes the action.  Grinding often takes place without us really realising or knowing about it, particularly when we are asleep.

The unnecessary pressures and forces put on the teeth can weaken the enamel as it is worn away faster.  Again, this exposes more of the yellow dentine below it.

Small cracks in the enamel caused by too much pressure are also more likely to pick up extrinsic stains e.g. from food.

Dentine

The tissue that makes up the majority of the tooth structure has different shades in different people.

Some dentine is more yellow than others.  Couple this with thinner enamel and the colour is more likely to show though.

Diagnosing the cause of your yellow teeth – staining or natural yellowing

In the last section of this article, I listed reasons and causes as to why your teeth might be yellow.

You probably have a good idea of what has caused your teeth to look the way that they do.

Some of these causes, age and genetics to name a couple, are for the most part outside of our control.  These will yellow the teeth irrespective of what you and I do.

But there are those causes which stain the teeth, be that internally or externally.

Stains internal to the tooth tend to be less common are unfortunately irreversible.

However, the external staining to the teeth is reversible and many of us can do something about it.

Close up of yellow teeth

If you are not sure why or what is causing your yellowing the following might help you pinpoint the cause.

The staining has:

  • Always existed
    • Quite likely to be genetics, you have naturally darker teeth.
    • Trauma to the tooth or over exposure to compounds like fluoride when the tooth was developing.
  • Developed over time
    • The gradual change in colour can be as a result of extrinsic staining caused by food and drink such as coffee, tea, blueberries, curries etc.
    • The natural ageing of the tooth structure.
    • If applicable just to 1 or a couple of teeth, decay, death of the tooth or restorations could be a cause.
  • Developed recently (last few days or weeks)
    • Typically as a result of surface staining that can be easily removed with thorough brushing or a professional clean.
    • If applicable just to 1 or a couple of teeth, decay, death or trauma might be the cause.

The part of the tooth affected is:

  • The whole tooth
    • All teeth
      • Quite possibly age related as the enamel thins and the dentine becomes more exposed.
      • Extended use of medications for illness.
    • Just some teeth
      • If applicable just to 1 or a couple of teeth, decay, death or trauma might be the cause.
  • Just certain patched of the tooth
    • All teeth
      • Where a part of a tooth is affected but is replicated on many of the teeth within the mouth, this is often as a result of extended exposure to certain medications.
      • Dental decay is another possible cause.
    • Just some teeth
      • Look for signs of decay or a weakened filling.
      • It could be a stubborn stain.

If you are unsure of what the cause is of your yellow teeth, seek the opinion of dental professionals.

Your teeth will yellow with age

Hopefully, this is clear already, but it is worth reiterating as it is easy to worry about the change in tooth colour.

Your teeth will typically get more yellow as you age and there is little you can do about it.

Over the years the outer layer of the tooth, the enamel, will thin.

As a result, the natural yellow colour of the dentine below shows through with more ease.

Even if you devoted your life to doing all you can to prevent the staining and decay of the tooth enamel, the fact is, some thinning and yellowing will happen.

The ageing process is slow and gradual.

Rapid changes in tooth colour are not normally as a result of age.

Cumulative effect

As lifestyle choices are the number 1 cause of yellowing teeth it is important to understand that those choices we make have a cumulative effect.

How dark a tooth becomes generally relates to the regularity and level of exposure the teeth get to the causes.

Therefore, someone who smokes 40 cigarettes a day and drinks a bottle of red wine is likely to have teeth that are a darker yellow than if they drank just the red wine each day.

Yellow between teeth

It is possible that your teeth can appear more yellow between the teeth (the sides of your teeth) than the front surfaces of the teeth do.

One potential explanation is the way the light hits the side of the tooth and the surface area.  The tighter gaps between teeth and the exposure to light can make the small exposed gaps or side of teeth appear darker than they are.

If you do not floss or clean interdental spaces as often as you should this will be another potential reason why it looks yellow between teeth; you are simply not cleaning away the staining agents.

However, more than likely the cause is one of those I have listed already, it is just more obvious on the side of the tooth than the front.

Prevention and delaying the yellowing

There is little that can be done to stop yellowing completely, particularly if the cause of the colour change is as a result of ageing and genetics.

However, steps can be taken to prevent premature ageing and delay some of the yellowing.

With a few simple lifestyle changes, such as cutting back on the coffee or smoking, may delay and prevent some of the unwanted tooth discolouration.

Improve your oral hygiene, by brushing and flossing better and seeing a dental hygienist every 6 months is one of the easiest and cheapest changes you can make.

Some of the damage may have already been done

Depending on how yellow your teeth have become and the causes, will depend on what, if anything can be done to restore the natural colour of your teeth.

Where the discolouration of the tooth is only on the external layer of the tooth, you can generally reverse the damage relatively easily.

If the yellowing is to the internal structure of the tooth, the damage is done and your options are significantly reduced.  Aside from veneers that mask the yellow teeth, little can be done.

The role of saliva

Saliva in the mouth plays a much more important role than you might have imagined.

It actually helps protect the mouth and the teeth.

It neutralises the acids and washes away a proportion of the bacteria that would otherwise eat away at the teeth causing decay and yellowing.

According to Mayo Clinic “Saliva supplies high levels of calcium and phosphate particles (ions) that enhance protection of the tooth’s enamel surface. The calcium and phosphate ions act to slow loss of tooth enamel (demineralization) and promote rebuilding of tooth enamel (remineralization). Saliva protects your mouth by washing away food and the sticky film of acid-producing plaque that can cling to teeth. Saliva also neutralizes damaging acids and limits bacterial growth that can dissolve tooth enamel”

There are limits to how much the saliva on its own can do and this is where the brushing and flossing come in.

With the correct oral hygiene routine, you can really help your mouth out.  You might even consider a toothpaste such as that from Ultradex that is designed to help with the remineralisation of the tooth enamel.

Sugar-free chewing gum can help stimulate extra saliva production and protect your teeth, especially if there is added xylitol.  You get the benefit of the fresh breath from gum and the extra saliva that will work to protect your teeth.

Unfortunately, conditions such as dry mouth (xerostomia) exist. With dry mouth there may be less saliva produced or the saliva may not be as good quality.

Because of this, the saliva has a limited ability to protect the teeth.

Dry mouth is often caused by medications, but products like Biotene mouth rinse exist to rehydrate the mouth and promote the natural action of saliva.

How to get rid of yellow teeth

This article has already confirmed that some yellowing, notably staining, to the external tooth layer can be removed.

Sadly, internal staining and yellowing of the teeth due to age cannot be treated at home.  However, they can be masked by cosmetic treatments, such as veneers or cosmetic whitening.

For those stained teeth that can be treated, aside from cosmetic treatment, there is no single quick fix solution to getting rid of yellow teeth.  Even cosmetic treatments cannot guarantee whiter teeth for good.

Popular solutions for getting rid of yellow teeth include:

  1. Regular brushing and flossing
  2. Professional teeth cleaning
  3. Quitting smoking or reducing the number smoked
  4. Changes in food consumed
  5. Changes in drinks consumed
  6. Changes in medication
  7. Mouthguards
  8. Natural whitening solutions
  9. At home whitening kits
  10. Simple professional whitening
  11. Veneers

I previously identified the 12 common causes of yellow teeth.  I have grouped these below along with recommended solutions for reversing or limiting the effects.

  • Discolouration – Extrinsic – (Staining to the outer layer of the tooth)
    • Causes
      • Smoking
      • Poor oral hygiene
      • Food
      • Drinks
    • Possible solutions
      • Regular brushing and flossing
      • Professional teeth cleaning
      • Quitting smoking or reducing the number smoked
      • Changes in food consumed
      • Changes in drinks consumed
      • Natural whitening solutions
      • At home whitening kits
      • Professional whitening
      • Veneers
  • Discolouration – Intrinsic – (Staining to the inner layer of the tooth)
    • Causes
      • Ageing
      • Genetics
      • Disease
      • Medication
      • Accidents & Trauma
      • Environment
      • Grinding
      • Dentine
    • Possible solutions
      • Changes in medication
      • Mouthguards
      • Veneers
      • Professional whitening using special inside-out technique in some cases

We’ve also put together this video with our in-house dentist Dr. Chhaya Chauhan that explains how you can prevent staining in the first place:

Watch Our Teeth Whitening Video Course

One person will achieve different results to another, as teeth and lifestyles are different.

Some will see the big improvements from simple and cheap solutions, whilst others will need to invest in more extensive solutions to really help deal with the problem.

Cosmetic options such as whitening and veneers can achieve significant improvements in very little time. However, if the cause of yellow teeth is poor oral hygiene, smoking and disease then the likelihood is the whitening will only be temporary.

Let’s take a look at the common solutions in a bit more detail.

Regular brushing and flossing

This is likely one of the easier solutions to achieving whiter teeth and ridding your mouth of yellow teeth.

It should be something you practice and invest in, yellow teeth or not.

Brushing helps dislodge the plaque, bacteria, tannins and chromogens that alter the tooth’s colour.

Your oral hygiene can be improved massively by making sure you brush twice a day, for 2 minutes and flossing once a day to.

You need to make sure you are using the right tools though.

You want a nice soft bristled brush head on your toothbrush and you should pick the best flossing tools.

There is nothing wrong with a manual toothbrush, but an electric toothbrush can bring some benefits.  Our guide to the best electric toothbrush can help you pick out the best brush for you.

As you perfect this routine, it is worth assessing how you brush your teeth.  Manual and electric toothbrushes require a different technique. Are you brushing with the brush head at a 45 degree angle to the teeth?  Our guide shows you the correct technique to improve your brushing.

Regular brushing and flossing with a good toothpaste will clean the teeth effectively and within a short period of time lift many of the stains or tooth discolouration that exists on the exterior of the teeth.

You might think a ‘whitening’ toothpaste is worth getting.  Indeed it can certainly help cut through and lift the stains a little quicker, but it is not a necessity. We explain this in further detail and offer some recommendations in our post on the best whitening toothpastes.

If you are brushing regularly like this and not seeing any colour improvement, it might just be that the colour you see is your natural tooth colour, or the discolouration is internal.  Brushing will only remove external stains.

It is possible that some particularly stubborn plaque buildup might be masking the true colour of the tooth.  You can try plaque disclosing tablets to highlight any new or old bacteria that might be handing about.

Professional teeth cleaning

Making use of the professional cleaning services that a dental professional offers is a quick and fairly cost-effective way of making your teeth whiter.

In fact, it is probably the best balance between price and results for a large number of people.

When you leave, you will know your teeth are as clean as they can be.

Patient undergoing treatment for yellow teeth

These trained professionals not only have the expertise but the benefit of highly specialised tools that can clean your teeth more effectively.

Scaling and polishing tools remove the majority of staining and plaque build up that exists on and in between the teeth.

Their tools can remove more plaque and stains than any toothbrush or cleaning you can complete at home. It is a better solution than an off-the-shelf whitening kit, or whitening toothpaste.

Once you have undergone a professional cleaning like this, it is usually a good sign as to how white your teeth can get without resorting to cosmetic treatment such as whitening and veneers.

To maintain the work done by the professionals, adopting a good oral hygiene routine is important.

A hygienist can be seen as often as you need, to remove stubborn stains and tartar (calculus) build up.

For further clarification, I reached out to Rebecca Young, a dental therapist:

Yellow teeth can often be a result of plaque or calculus (tartar) which can only be removed with a professional cleaning. Dental professionals train for years to use equipment to remove these stubborn deposits

Rebecca Young – Dental Therapist – GDC Number: 245112

Quitting smoking or reducing the number smoked

If you are a smoker, whilst there could be other causes to your yellowing teeth, this is certainly not going to be helping.

The most obvious answer here is to quit, as doing so can have other significant health benefits.

However, I understand changing a habit like this can be incredibly hard.

Even just reducing the amount you smoke can have an effect.

Perhaps you can consider switching to ‘e-cigarettes’ or ‘vaping’ as an alternative as these may not discolour teeth to the same degree.

Drinking plenty of water, brushing properly and regularly whilst consuming a balanced diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables can help reduce the effects.

Changes in food consumed

Many of us like a good curry as well as fruits like raspberries and blueberries.

However, the chromogens and tannins are not ideal for our tooth enamel.

Whilst giving up certain foods is an option, it is a little extreme and not one that is generally recommended.

The best approach is to be more considerate about how much of these you eat and what you can do to reduce or limit the exposure.

Could you reduce how often you eat such foods?

How about a smaller portion each time?

Rather than opting for fruits like raspberries, maybe a hard fruit like an apple is an alternative?

Eating raw veg like carrots can naturally clean the teeth as you bite and eat them.

It is good for your overall health if you eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, but if you can add more veg to meals like curry it may be possible to reduce the effects that food can have.

An effective option after consuming any food known to stain is to rinse the mouth out with water or mouthwash as this will lift and wash away a large proportion of the staining molecules.

Changes in drinks consumed

Many of us like a glass of wine or an alcoholic drink.

Fresh fruit juices and sports drinks have their place too.

But, just like food, be considerate about how much and how often you drink such.

Do you need that extra glass of wine? Perhaps you could have white instead of red?

Could you eat an orange or an apple rather than consuming it in the form of a juice drink?

Fruits juices are acidic and wear away at the enamel.  When eaten whole they retain the fibre and are more filling and the body absorbs the ingredients in different ways.

Tea and coffee are an essential part of the day for many; it’s what gets us going in the morning.  But do you need that 3rd of 4th cup in the day? Could it be replaced with a glass of water?

Drinking water in between cups of tea and coffee not only helps wash away some teeth staining particles, but it helps keep you hydrated and more alert.

Changes in medication

Medications play a vital role, but subject to what medication you are prescribed with and what period you are expected to use it for might influence what you do.

It might well be that there are alternative medications that are not known to have the side effect of yellowing the teeth.

We do not suggest missing out on medication to protect the yellowing of your teeth, but it can be worth understanding if other options exist.

Mouthguards

Mouthguards, particularly those available from your dentist, rather than the off the shelf boil and bite options, can be helpful in reducing the likelihood of tooth grinding or bruxism being the cause of the discolouration.

They absorb and even the pressure across your jaw, whilst being a softer barrier between the 2 rows of teeth.

They can also protect the teeth against trauma and injury, particularly if you partake in actions sports where contact is likely.

Natural whitening solutions

This is an option that many try often because it is a cost-effective and quick solution, or at least that is the impression that is given.

We’ve written about it in more detail in our article on natural teeth whitening at home.

Whilst some may see benefits, few really get the results they want and rarely are the results better than what can be achieved with a regular toothpaste and brushing.

Natural methods will at best remove stains, they will not bleach your teeth like professional whitening can.

Whilst you are technically free to do what you like to your teeth, many of these natural remedies are scientifically unproven or doubted by dental professionals.

Some of the common natural options are:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Coconut oil pulling
  • Baking soda
  • Apple cider vinegar

There are various charcoal products on Amazon UK with many raving fans, or so it seems.

But, you only need to read our buyers guide to activated charcoal to understand the possible risks associated with using it.

At home whitening kits

At-home whitening kits, or “over-the-counter” (OTC) products as they are commonly referred to, have limited effectiveness compared to a cosmetic whitening procedure.

In the UK, they are best regarded as stain removal products rather than bleaching products.

The primary reason is that under legislation, any legal whitening kit you buy off the shop shelf will contain no more than 0.1% of bleaching agents.

A dental professional uses agents that are up to 6% hydrogen peroxide.

Needless to say, the huge difference in strength will alter the results quite considerably.

We have covered this in more detail in our articles on professional whitening and the best whitening methods.

Professional whitening

With little exception, the act of getting your teeth bleached by a professional is the most effective route to achieving whiter teeth.

It is a more expensive option, but it doesn’t need to be extortionate. We look at the costs and options of professional whitening in more detail here. 

Using a much higher concentration of whitening chemicals, most commonly hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, the effects are much greater.

Only dental professionals are allowed to offer whitening products and services that use such high strength whitening agents.

They not only have the right tools to complete the job safely, they also check there are no outstanding dental issues that may affect or compromise the whitening treatment.

We recommend custom made trays as the best whitening method.

Stained teeth before and after

Veneers

One of the most extreme options to deal with the yellowing of the teeth is the application of veneers.

Veneers are a cosmetic treatment which involves sticking an artificial layer to the front of the tooth.

It essentially masks the natural tooth, although this remains in place behind the veneer.

Often made of porcelain, veneers are resistant to stains and can last for many years.

In addition to being made whiter than the natural teeth, they can be used to alter the look of your teeth, such as the size and shape.

They are the best solution to dealing with yellow teeth that are caused by internal staining, ageing, trauma, genetics and matters outside of your control.

They are costly and the procedure to get them is more time consuming, as explained in our guide to veneers.

That said, the results can be very impressive and last many years longer than other options presented.

Dentist’s don’t expect you to give everything up

Some people believe that their dentists are going to lecture them and tell them all that is wrong with their teeth, particularly if they are yellow or stained.

This is simply not true.

The majority of dentists simply want you to have and retain your natural teeth for as long as possible.

Few dentists expect or encourage you to replicate the smile of the A-list celebrities, but they may advise on options that can improve your oral health and help keep those natural teeth in good order.

Taking care of them is the primary way to achieve this.

As has been shown, there are many possible causes as to why you may have yellow teeth.

Depending on you and your lifestyle, the causes may be more obvious than for someone else.

Just because you smoke or drink alcohol or take certain medication, does not mean you have to give up and no dentist will make you.

Dentists are humans too and they love the same things you do.

Whilst there may well be other benefits to giving up smoking and drinking, it is not a necessity, in most cases.

Too few people practice good basic oral care routines.  So if you are a smoker, drinker or like a curry, all of which can stain your teeth, a dentist may advise rinsing with water, techniques for better brushing and general better care.

This advice is simply to allow you to keep your mouth healthier for longer.

Strike a balance

If you are a regular smoker or heavy coffee drinker, with yellow teeth, this article may not make for the best reading.

In some ways it it is saying reducing or giving up on both, but that is a very literal view.  Yes, it will likely have a big impact on improving the colour of your teeth, but it won’t necessarily be right for you.

There may well be benefits to quitting, but striking a balance can be better for all.

Smoke a few less each day.  Drink less coffee.

Consume more water, brush your teeth better and think a bit more about how you can help yourself if you do not want such yellow teeth.

How to remove stains on the teeth

For the majority of us then, the yellow and discoloured teeth we experience is as a result of staining to the exterior layer of the tooth enamel.

Vanity is what drives many of us to find solutions, to get rid of these stained teeth.  Brighter, less dull teeth make us look and feel better.

So just how do you remove the stains from your teeth?

There are a number of different options as we have already highlighted earlier in the article, but we would suggest you try the following list, of options in the order we present.

  1. Regular brushing and flossing
    1. Brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes.
    2. Floss once a day.
    3. Use a fluoride based toothpaste.
    4. Ideally, use an electric toothbrush, but a manual brush is ok.
    5. Make sure you are using the correct brushing technique to remove as much of the staining as possible.
  2. Professional teeth cleaning
    1. Get a scale and polish completed every 6 months by a dental hygienist.
  3. Quitting smoking or reducing the number smoked
    1. The less that is consumed, the lesser the impact on the teeth.
    2. Switch to e-cigarettes.
    3. Drink water after to wash away as much of the contaminants as possible.
  4. Changes in food consumed
    1. Reduce the intake of tannin and chromogen rich foods like curries, raspberries, blueberries.
    2. Add in more fresh fruit and vegetables to the diet.
    3. Drink water after eating to wash away excess harmful substances.
  5. Changes in drinks consumed
    1. Reduce the intake of tannin and chromogen rich drinks like tea and coffee whilst too being considerate of the number of acid rich drinks like orange juice.
    2. Drink water after eating to wash away excess harmful substances.
  6. Professional whitening
    1. A sure fire way to rid the teeth of stains and improve their colour.
    2. Will not last for as long if causes of staining are not considered or reduced.
  7. Veneers
    1. Most dramatic but longest lasting approach to ridding the teeth of stains.
    2. Only masking the stained teeth that they are attached too.
    3. Require a good standard or oral healthcare.

If you feel like you want to get started with teeth whitening or stain removal, check out our video below.

Watch Our Teeth Whitening Video Course

Kids & yellow teeth

It is quite possible that the teeth of your child, be that a baby or a toddler are not as white as you think they should be.

The first thing to note is that their first set of teeth are whiter than their second, permanent set of teeth.

The causes of yellowing to children’s teeth is much the same as adult teeth.  Trauma, genetics, medication can all play a part. You should also consider their diet.

Try to limit the number of sugary foods and drinks and make sure that they brush and floss (with your supervision) to remove the plaque and damaging bacteria to prolong the life and delay the yellowing and ageing.

You might want to invest in an electric toothbrush for your kids.  There are some great options available, that not only help clean the teeth well but educate and encourage better brushing routines.

There should be no need for any cosmetic whitening of a child’s teeth.  Time is generally on your side. Ensure they get regular dental checkups and if concerned, seek an appointment with a dentist sooner.

See our FAQ on kids teeth whitening for more information.

Other types of tooth discolouration

Believe it or not, the teeth do not just turn yellow.  The whole tooth, parts or spots of the teeth can turn orange, blue brown, grey and even green.

In many cases these different colours are caused and treated by the same things as yellow teeth, therefore you could begin by taking a look at some of the options listed in the section of this article titled, ‘how to get rid of yellow teeth’.

But in some cases, the causes might be slightly different.

Orange teeth

Found near the gumline, the orange lines or spots seen on the teeth are typically a sign that the bacteria and plaque is not being removed from the teeth correctly.

This is a sign of the early stages of tooth decay.

Brushing the teeth more regularly and with the correct technique is the best course of action, but to help speed up the process, getting a scale and polish clean from a dental hygienist is advised.

Blue teeth

This is often a sign of staining to the inside of the tooth.  Commonly caused by medications, this staining cannot be reversed with ease.  Cosmetic solutions may dull the tone or mask it (veneers).

brown teeth

Brown teeth

Have you got brown marks, spots or patches on the teeth? Is the majority of the tooth surface brown?

Like yellow teeth, brown staining is usually linked to extrinsic stains and can often be reversed.

Lifestyle factors are normally responsible and a good brushing routine is a good place to start.  If this does not have the desired effects, consider professional cleaning, a change in your lifestyle or cosmetic treatments.

Grey teeth

Similar to teeth that have a blue tone to them, grey teeth are quite often as a result of staining to the inside of the tooth.

Medications are a well known cause, but the metals used in some fillings as well as trauma to the tooth could result in the tooth going such a colour.

Black teeth

Most often a sign that the exterior of the tooth is stained, such marks can normally be removed with a thorough cleaning.  You may require a professional to scale and polish the tooth to remove the black mark.

A line or small spot often found on the front teeth, iron supplements or mouthwashes that contain ingredients such as chlorhexidine are known to be responsible for this.

black tooth

Green teeth

Varying from a light to dark shade of green, teeth of this colour are more commonly seen in children or younger patients.  The colour is seen most often on the teeth at the front of the mouth.

The exact causes can differ, but it is typically as a result of exposure to metals like nickel, mercury and copper.  Bacteria and fungi and certain blood diseases can also be responsible for this.

Whatever the colour of the tooth, if you are concerned, particularly if the colour change has been rapid, then it is worth seeking the assessment and opinion of a trained dental professional.

Conclusion

As this article has documented, yellowing of the teeth is natural.

However, our lifestyle and the actions we take can either speed up, delay or even prevent the yellowing of the teeth.

Do not get too worked up about the causes and the solutions.  Whilst white teeth may well be nice, there is more to life and if achieving white teeth means giving up the things that make you happy, then don’t unless there is a good argument for it.

Ultimately it is about understanding probably causes and some of the simple steps you can take to help yourself.

None need be life changing, but investing in some, in particular, a good oral hygiene routine is very sensible.

Try to strike that balance, forgo a coffee or 2.  Drink more water and be aware of what you can do to help your teeth.

If you are interested in making your teeth whiter, we recommend starting with our teeth whitening hub page.

FAQ

Does it matter if teeth are yellow?

Generally speaking, it does not matter if your teeth are yellow.

The cause is either natural, be that ageing or genetics.  Or, the cause of the yellowing is lifestyle factors that stain the teeth and make them look yellow.

Rarely is a yellow tooth a risk or a sign that it is unhealthy.

If you are happy with yellow teeth then this is fine.

For many, yellow teeth are a problem because they do not like the look and feel that they should be whiter and therefore take actions to achieve this.

Are yellow teeth healthy?

For the most part yes.  Yellow teeth are natural and happen in part as a result or ageing and genetics, although other lifestyle factors can play a role.

The colour of the tooth is not necessarily a sign the tooth is unhealthy.

However, if you have 1 or 2 teeth that are particularly yellow or stand out in comparison to the rest of the teeth in your mouth, this could be as a result of trauma or injury and may be worth seeking a professional opinion on.

If you are overly concerned or one tooth has yellowed significantly or at a rapid rate, it does not hurt to get it checked out by a dentist.

Are yellow teeth bad?

No, not necessarily.

Yellow teeth do not necessarily mean that you have any problems with them, nor does it mean they are unhealthy.

Yellow teeth is more normal than you might imagine and the natural colour of teeth is rarely bright white.  Society has led to many feeling that only white teeth are acceptable and healthy and as such yellow teeth can be considered bad, when in fact there is nothing wrong.

Your dentist will tell you at a regular checkup if there are any causes for concern.

Why do teeth go yellow?

The primary cause of yellow teeth is staining to the external layer of the tooth, the enamel.  This staining is as a result of lifestyle choices we make, this includes:

  • Smoking
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Food
  • Drinks

Lifestyle choices we have control over, other causes of yellow teeth we tend to have less control over and these will make our teeth appear yellow.

  • Ageing
  • Genetics
  • Disease
  • Medication
  • Accidents & Trauma
  • Environment
  • Grinding
  • Dentine

Does coffee stain teeth?

Yes.

Coffee contains chromogens which have strong pigments that stick to the tooth enamel as well as tannins that create conditions that help these chromogens stick in the first place.

The continued exposure of the teeth to such will result in staining.

Good oral hygiene habits at home and regular professional cleanings of the teeth alongside can help keep these staining to a minimum.

Does green tea stain the teeth?

Yes.

Although less likely to stain the teeth than the likes of black tea, the tannins that are responsible for the staining still exist within the tea.

Can yellow teeth become white?

The short answer is yes, yellow teeth can be made whiter.

How much whiter will depend on the cause of the yellow teeth in the first place.

Diet, genetics and staining are all contributors and causes.

Take a look at the ‘how to get rid of yellow teeth‘ section of this article for more information on how yellow teeth can become white.

Can naturally yellow teeth be whitened?

Yes, they can.  Seek out professional whiting available only through a dental professional.

How to clean yellow teeth?

You clean yellow teeth just like you would any other colour teeth.  Twice a day for 2 minutes with a soft bristled toothbrush, and a fluoride based toothpaste.

Floss/clean interdental spaces at least once a day.

This tooth brushing guide can help ensure you use the right technique.

More abrasive toothpastes such as whitening pastes can help lift surface stains which might be the cause of yellowing if the desire is to clean the teeth better to lift stains.  An electric toothbrush can too clean more effectively thanks to the consistent power delivery.

How to whiten yellow teeth fast?

Book into your dental hygienist for a clean and scale to remove as much surface staining and discolouration as possible.  This is a more cost-effective option than whitening, but may not achieve the best results, depending on the cause of the yellow teeth.  Although more expensive, professional teeth whitening offered by a dental professional will offer the best results,  within just a few hours, you can have much brighter and whiter teeth.

How to make teeth white naturally from yellow

The best natural thing you can do to make your teeth whiter is to adjust your diet and lifestyle and make sure you are cleaning your teeth regularly and effectively.

Ditch any habits like smoking and reduce tannin rich food and drink.

You can use ‘natural’ toothpastes that are free of chemicals, but more than likely just adopting a good routine is going to make a big difference.

There are many suggested natural whitening approaches, such as using bicarbonate of soda,  but few actually have much any real effect.

References

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