Yellow Teeth: Causes and Treatments

Happy Smiling Couple

As you ring in the New Year, one of your resolutions might be to have a whiter, brighter smile. After all, no one wants to have yellow, discolored teeth. This condition can be embarrassing and prevent you from smiling confidently. In a 2012 survey by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, participants were asked: “What would you most like to improve about your smile?” and “the most common response was: whiter & brighter teeth.” Many Americans are concerned about this issue. They want to take their smile from discolored to dazzling. But what causes yellow teeth and what can you do to lighten them? Dr. Cindy Flanagan and our Houston dental team answer these questions in the following blog.

How Yellowing Works

To truly take charge of your tooth color, you need to know how discoloration works. You may notice your teeth changing in color over time, but cannot pinpoint why. Essentially, there are three forms of yellowing:

  • Extrinsic discoloration is much more common. Colgate Oral Care Center explains: this occurs when the outer layer of the tooth (the enamel) is stained” by something.
  • Your teeth can also yellow from the inside out. “This is when the inner structure of the tooth (the dentin) darkens or gets a yellow tint,” Colgate Oral Care Center describes. This form of yellowing is called intrinsic discoloration.
  • A combination of the two. It is possible that you suffer from both extrinsic and intrinsic yellowing, as the two are not mutually exclusive.

When you come in for an examination, Dr. Flanagan will diagnose your discoloration to determine which process (or processes) is affecting your teeth.

Common Causes of Discoloration

What is the source of your yellowing smile? There are many possible factors in your discoloration, but some of the most widespread include:

  • Dark foods and beverages. Brown sodas, red wine, coffee, chocolate, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and many other dark edible substances can extrinsically stain your teeth. Basically, tiny particles of these foods and drink get trapped inside your enamel, changing its color.
  • Tobacco use. Colgate Oral Care Center advises: “Nicotine from smoking doesn’t just develop an unhealthy addition; it leaves yellowish or brownish surface stains of your teeth, too (one more reason to kick the habit).” Using tobacco products also raises your risk for oral cancer and a host of other conditions.
  • Certain medications. Some antibiotics and other drugs can damage the inner structure of the teeth and cause them to take on a yellower hue. This is particularly prevalent amongst children. Colgate Oral Care Center notes: “According to the National Institutes of Health, 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.”
  • Too much fluoride. It may sound counterintuitive, but over-the-top fluoride use can actually become problematic. Colgate Oral Cancer Center explains: “fluoride is good for teeth, but excess fluoride can cause yellow or brownish spots called fluorosis.” This is another form of intrinsic discoloration.
  • Congenital conditions. In her Live Science piece, “Why Do Teeth Turn Yellow?,” Alina Bradford points out: “Similar to your complexion or the color of your eyes, you may simply be born with teeth that appear more yellow (or white) than other people’s teeth… that is, if you have thin enamel, the true color of your naturally yellowish dentin will shine through.”
  • Plaque buildup. The sticky substance that coats your teeth and can cause decay if you don’t keep up proper dental hygiene practices, can have a yellow tint. The cavities caused by plaque can also cause discoloration. This is why it is important to see Dr. Flanagan at least twice a year for a preventive care appointment.
  • Trauma. Chipping your teeth or grinding down your enamel can expose the yellowish dentin beneath it. It is important to get this cause of discoloration treated as quickly as possible, because it also makes your teeth vulnerable to other issues, and it may be uncomfortable.

Dr. Flanagan can help you diagnose the true cause of your tooth discoloration and customize a treatment plan to give you a brighter smile.

How We Can Help

In most cases, Dr. Flanagan and our team recommend teeth whitening to treat yellowing. Our KöR Whitening program is advanced treatment can bleach away both extrinsic and intrinsic stains, while minimizing sensitivity. Our ZOOM! whitening system also delivers outstanding results. If you suffer from severe intrinsic whitening, we may recommend porcelain veneers as an alternative. If chipping, grinding, or cavities are the cause of your discoloration, we may recommend a restorative treatment. In any case, we will work closely with you to find an appropriate solution for your smile.

Do You Suffer From Yellow Teeth?

Dr. Flanagan and our team would be delighted to help you enhance your smile! Contact our Houston practice today to learn more and schedule an appointment.

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