Practice Logo

Help! My Teeth are Yellow

Sep 02, 2023
Help! My Teeth are Yellow
You don’t have to live with yellow teeth and a dull, dingy smile. Explore common causes of dental discoloration, and discover how we can help you restore your white, luminous smile with our individualized cosmetic dental approach. 

Your smile is a fundamental expression of your personality — and an obvious sign of your overall oral health. Whether interacting with co-workers, communicating with your partner, or taking a selfie to post on social media, the last thing you want the world to see is yellow, stained tooth enamel. 

As family dentists specializing in cosmetic dentistry at Hazel Dell Dentistry, Dr. Suzette Nikas and Dr. Chelsea Laucher offer comprehensive teeth whitening solutions that can help you get rid of dingy dental discoloration and restore a whiter, brighter smile. 

Here, we explore the fundamental mechanisms behind tooth discoloration, explain why your teeth may be yellow, and discuss a range of strategies that can help you reverse the problem.  

Tooth discoloration basics

Many of our dental patients are surprised to learn that tooth discoloration can happen on three levels, each requiring a different whitening approach. With a quick oral exam, our team can determine if your yellow teeth are a product of: 

Surface staining

Extrinsic discoloration is a form of exterior dental soiling that happens when stain molecules accumulate in the microscopic surface channels of your enamel. It tends to make teeth look yellow or brown. Another external factor that can make your teeth yellow? Plaque buildup.

While most enamel-staining residues are left by dark drinks and foods like red wine, coffee, and blueberries, the tar and nicotine chemicals in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco can also cause surface staining. 

Internal discoloration

Intrinsic dental discoloration develops when something causes the inner tooth structure below your enamel — a second protective layer of calcified tissue called dentin — to darken. Instead of turning your smile yellow or brown, however, this type of discoloration tends to make your teeth appear greyer than normal.

Internal tooth discoloration is often a result of medication: Certain prescription drugs can temporarily darken your tooth dentin, including antihistamines and anti-hypertensive medicines. Dental trauma that kills a tooth’s nerve root can also cause permanent intrinsic discoloration in the affected tooth. 

Thinning enamel 

Normal, age-related dental changes affect your teeth both intrinsically and extrinsically: White surface enamel becomes thinner as the darker underlying dentin layer becomes thicker, often making teeth appear less white — and more yellow — over the years. 

Why are my teeth yellow?

As much as you may dislike your yellowed smile, we have good news: Most yellow or brown enamel cases are due to extrinsic factors that are typically easy to address.   

Usually, yellow teeth are a product of one or more of the following factors:

  • Months of stain molecule buildup on the surface of your enamel
  • Insufficient daily oral hygiene habits and skipped dental cleanings 
  • Age-related dental changes (enamel thinning/dentin thickening) 

For many people, yellow teeth are caused by problematic oral care factors. Stain molecule buildup happens more quickly when you don’t brush and floss as thoroughly as you should; at the same time, insufficient oral hygiene habits also promote the buildup of plaque, a thin, sticky coat of enamel-damaging bacteria that’s initially invisible. 

But it's buildup can continue unchecked when plaque isn’t removed regularly — such as when you skip your twice-yearly dental cleaning and exam. Layers of plaque take on a yellow hue; they also trap more stain-causing residues (not to mention cavity-causing bacteria). 

Lastly, age-related enamel thinning may amplify the effects of surface staining or plaque buildup if you're middle-aged or older.  

We can whiten your smile

Our oral exam can uncover all the contributing causes of your yellowed teeth, giving us the information we need to take a comprehensive treatment approach. Your plan may include:  

Professional dental cleaning

If it’s been six months (or a whole lot longer) since your last professional dental cleaning, having our hygienist clear away every speck of dental plaque, remove calcified tartar, and polish your teeth can go a long way in brightening your smile. 

In-office teeth whitening 

If deep-set stains cast a yellow hue on your teeth, an in-office teeth whitening treatment with the KöR® whitening protocol can restore your pearly whites. 

Using an advanced, clinical-strength peroxide gel that effectively lifts stains without causing excessive tooth sensitivity, our in-office treatment can wipe away years of yellowing residues and leave you with a bright, luminous smile that's several shades whiter.  

Brushing and flossing tips

Suppose we notice specific spots of excessive plaque buildup and enamel yellowing. In that case, we'll let you know which areas require extra attention and provide detailed recommendations on improving your daily brushing and flossing technique. 

Specific dietary adjustments 

If extrinsic staining is severe or if thinning enamel plays a part in your dental discoloration, we may suggest making a few dietary (or oral care) adjustments. For example, cutting down on tea, coffee, and red wine can help reduce staining — as can rinsing your mouth with water after drinking such beverages. 

If your enamel appears thinning, using a fluoridated mouthwash and limiting contact with acidic foods and beverages can help strengthen and preserve your remaining enamel.  

If you're ready for a whiter, brighter smile, we can help. Call our expert team at Hazel Dell Dentistry in Carmel, Indiana, today, or click online to schedule a consultation any time.