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The natural color of teeth tends to range from white to light yellow. This is because of two layers of dental tissue: enamel and dentin.1, 2
Enamel is the hard, whitish outer layer of your teeth. Dentin lies just beneath the enamel to support it. Dentin is naturally yellow.
While enamel can have a slightly bluish-white color, it’s also somewhat translucent. This allows some of the yellow dentin to show through.
Some people have thinner enamel or yellower dentin for genetic reasons, which may cause you to have naturally yellow teeth.
Alternatively, teeth may develop a more noticeable shade of yellow over time. Staining and enamel wear are two main reasons your teeth may become more yellow with time.
Enamel or dentin can become stained, resulting in yellow or discolored teeth. Some common causes of tooth stains include:
Staining can be either extrinsic (surface-level) or intrinsic (deep within the tooth). Extrinsic stains aren’t permanent, but they can be difficult to remove with routine oral hygiene practices.
Intrinsic stains, like those caused by tetracycline or fluorosis, are more likely to be permanent. Instead of removing them, dental professionals can cover them up with cosmetic restorations as a first-line option.
Enamel wear, or enamel erosion, can also affect teeth color. Not only does it expose the natural yellow color of dentin, but it also leaves your teeth more vulnerable to staining.
Your enamel may be worn down over time by:
While worn enamel won’t grow back on its own, you can strengthen it through a process known as remineralization (see below).
If a tooth stain is intrinsic, it won’t be as likely to respond to whitening treatment. Intrinsic stains may be caused by:
In some cases of tetracycline antibiotic use, professional bleaching can remove intrinsic stains. However, it may take multiple sessions, and the results may need improvement.
At-home whitening products that use abrasives will not affect intrinsic stains. These products can only eliminate extrinsic stains that don’t penetrate deeply into the teeth.
Research has shown that dentin can respond to bleaching treatments.4, 5, 6 However, enamel bleaching seems to be more important in changing the overall appearance of your teeth.
One study found that enamel bleaching made more of a color difference than dentin bleaching, even when dentin was more affected by staining.4 This is good news if you’re concerned about discoloration affecting your dentin.
Get your brightest smile with NewMouth's top teeth whitening picks for 2024.
Here are a few ways to fix yellow and discolored teeth:
Many dentists offer professional whitening treatment with hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These are often referred to as bleaching agents because they cause chemical changes in stained enamel.
These substances can damage the soft tissues of your mouth at high concentrations. They can also cause tooth sensitivity if left on too long. Having a dentist perform the procedure reduces these risks.
Professional bleaching is the safest and most reliable method for lifting tooth stains.
Many teeth whitening products are available in stores and online. These are typically grouped into two major categories:
At-home whitening products can effectively remove stains, but they aren’t risk-free. Bleaching agents can cause sensitivity and irritation, and abrasives can damage enamel if they’re too strong or overused.
We at NewMouth have tested and reviewed dozens of at-home whitening products to help you make an informed decision.
Keeping your teeth clean can help reduce or remove light staining. Brush, floss, and rinse your mouth to keep food particles and bacteria from accumulating.
Do not brush your teeth too aggressively, as this can cause enamel erosion and worsen staining. Instead, brush thoroughly but gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Your diet plays a significant role in the color of your teeth. You may be able to reduce staining by cutting down on the following:
The combination of acid and dark-colored compounds is likely to stain your teeth. Be careful with red wine, dark soda, wine, tea, and coffee.
Another thing to consider is how frequently you consume these foods and drinks. Regarding staining, it’s better to have a glass of wine with dinner than to sip on wine throughout the day.3
If you have intrinsic stains that won’t respond to whitening treatments, veneers may be an option.
Veneers are thin, porcelain shells that fit over your teeth. They can improve your teeth’s appearance by giving them a different color, shape, and/or size.
However, veneers won’t last forever, and because they’re purely cosmetic, insurance won’t cover them. Discuss the pros and cons with your dentist to determine if veneers are a suitable option for you.
There are other remedies for yellow teeth. These include:
To keep your teeth from becoming yellow or losing the results of whitening treatment, you can:
None of these things guarantee your teeth will never yellow. But consistently doing all of them will significantly lower your likelihood of tooth staining.
See NewMouth’s top 10 teeth whitening products of 2024.
The natural color of your teeth may vary from slightly off-white to light yellow. However, your teeth may become yellower over time due to staining or enamel erosion.
Worn enamel won’t return on its own, and some tooth stains are permanent. However, options are available to help restore the color of your teeth.
Teeth whitening, remineralizing enamel, and veneers can improve the appearance of yellow teeth. If you’re concerned about the color of your teeth, talk to your dentist about what treatments might work best for you.
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