How Do You Get Yellow Teeth in Adults & Children?


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We all use our teeth constantly throughout our lifetime.

As with all parts of our body, there are several problems associated with teeth too.

One of them is teeth discoloration which in common terms we refer as yellow teeth.

This is a common problem, however, do we know what makes teeth yellow? Our tooth is divided into the enamel, dentin, cementum, and pulp.

The enamel is what covers the crown of each tooth and is visible. It is made up of calcium and phosphorous, is hard and brittle in structure and protects our teeth from decay.

The dentin is the calcified inner layer that becomes visible as the enamel wears away.

The dentin is the part that gives our teeth the color. Depending on various factors, the dentin can appear white, yellow, off-white or grey.

There are many reasons why teeth become yellow. Knowing these reasons and ways to prevent or clean it can keep our teeth healthy and white.

Reasons for Yellow Teeth

First of all, teeth do not always turn yellow on discoloration they can also turn greyish, reddish too.

But ‘yellow teeth’ is the most common way of expressing teeth discoloration as it is also most common teeth color apart from white.

There are 2 main causes for discoloration of teeth:

  1. Extrinsic causes for teeth discoloration are usually various foods, dark-colored beverages or tobacco and normal wear and tear. These can be removed during routine brushing. More stubborn extrinsic stains are removed by bleaching the teeth.
  2. Intrinsic stains form mostly in the interior and are caused due to trauma, medications, exposure to minerals or fluoride. These days, there are has been tremendous advances in cosmetic dentistry such that even intrinsic stains can be removed.

Let us look at some of the reasons why teeth turn yellow.

  • Genes can determine the color of our teeth. Amelogenesis and dentinogenesis are two genetic defects which can affect the color of teeth enamel. Amelogenesis is a genetic disorder that makes teeth yellow. Since the enamel is thin and soft, it can get damaged quickly too. Sometimes the color of the teeth we are born with can itself be yellow, brownish etc and this continues to adulthood too.
  • Diseases – congenital and inherited diseases can determine the thickness of the enamel and its protein and calcium content. This can cause color changes to our teeth. Metabolic disease and severe neonatal jaundice can also alter the shape and color of teeth. Treatments which require chemotherapy and radiation of the head and neck can discolor teeth. When pregnant women get certain infections, this can affect teeth development in the fetus and lead to teeth discoloration.
  • Oral hygiene: This is one important cause for teeth to turn yellow. Plaque forms in our teeth 20 minutes after we eat. If this is not removed regularly with proper brushing, flossing and regular cleaning at the dentist, it can cause discoloration of teeth and other dental problems like cavities, gingivitis, periodontitis, abscess or bad breath.
  • Poryphyria: This is a deficiency disorder that can pass down many generations in a family. It can be a cause for teeth to turn yellow.
  • Drugs – If a pregnant woman takes certain medication or if a child is given antibiotic tetracycline or doxycycline before 8 years, this could cause a change in the brittleness and color of teeth. Mouthwashes and rinses which contain cetylpyridinium and chlorhexidine chloride, antihistamine cough syrups, high blood pressure drugs, and antipsychotic drugs can all cause teeth to turn yellow and discolored.
  • Environmental factors: There are many of these which can discolor teeth and make them yellow such as stress, wear, and tear, corrosion and erosion. These have different clinical terms like:
    • Attrition – This is a natural friction that occurs due to tooth-to-tooth grinding or clenching. It is called bruxism that occurs during sleep and is an involuntary action.
    • Abfraction – This is a stress fracture which can occur due to bending or flexing of teeth.
    • Corrosion – This occurs due to acidic matter which comes in contact with teeth like vitamin C, GERD, aspirin, acidic foods, frequent vomiting caused by bulimia or alcoholism.
    • Abrasion – This can be caused by improper brushing, flossing, biting hard objects like pens, fingernails or bottle caps and chewing tobacco.
  • Fluoride: Sometimes tap water can contain high levels of fluoride. Overuse of fluoride toothpaste, rinses and supplements can all cause yellow teeth.
  • Trauma: Falls or other injuries which damage the teeth can cause excess collection of debris and stains to form in the cracks, causing discoloration.
  • Smoking: Nicotine can slowly cause brow deposits to form on our teeth and discolor them.
  • Grinding: some people frequently gnash their teeth due to stress and other reasons. This grinding causes cracks to occur and the teeth edges to darken.
  • Age: As we grow older, the enamel naturally wears off and reveals the underlying dentin which is usually naturally yellow in color. Smoking and food stains can also accumulate over the years. Chipped teeth and injuries in older people cause damage to the pulp and can discolor teeth.
  • Dental materials: Dentists use materials that contain silver sulfide which can cause a gray-black coating on the teeth. Amalgam restorations can also discolor teeth.
  • Foods and Beverages are a major reason why teeth turn yellow. Here are some foods and the reasons why they may cause tooth discoloration.
    • Tea: Tea is a very healthy drink but usually stains teeth even more than coffee. Black tea is the major culprit in this although recent studies indicate that all types of tea – even white and herbal teas – can erode teeth enamel and cause discoloration.
    • Sauces: Deep colored tomato sauce, curry sauce, and soy sauce all have ingredients which stain teeth. Light cream sauces are safer for teeth.
    • Sports Drinks: These contain high levels of acidity which stain teeth. Hence, limit intake of these drinks to when you absolutely need them.
    • Wine: The theory is that any food or drink which can stain a white tablecloth can stain our teeth too. Red wine contains chromogens and tannins which are pigmented molecules that can intensely discolor our teeth and make them yellow. White wine is more acidic than red wine and can also cause discoloration.
    • Berries: Blackberries, blueberries, pomegranates, cherries, and all other richly colored fruits contain high levels of pigments that can stain teeth. So, whether we eat them fresh or consume pies or juices made with them, they have the potential to make our teeth yellow and discolored. So, while these fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals, you may wish to limit your intake of them and include less pigmented fruits like white cranberries or white grapes in your diet. However, all these fruits contain acid which can stain teeth.
    • Carbonated Drinks: Under this, we have all fizzy drinks like colas and sodas. These contain chromogens and acids that cause severe discoloration. The potential to stain teeth is not confined to dark beverages but even to light colored ones that contain high acid levels. In fact, the acidity levels in some carbonated beverages are often compared to battery acid. The flavors in these drinks, while delicious, also contribute to the discoloration of teeth.
    • Sugary Foods: Candies and sweets like chewing gum, lollipops and hard candy can stain teeth, just like they discolor our tongue too.

The solution for Discoloured Teeth

You can get white teeth using several home remedies, natural remedies, and many cosmetic dental procedures.

The choice depends upon various factors such as the extent of discoloration etc.

There are several precautions which if taken can help such as when eating the above foods, you can minimize staining by cutting back on them and switching to foods that cause fewer stains.

For example, you can substitute the above mentioned antioxidant-rich berries for other foods like apples, grapefruit, cauliflower or melon which are also healthy.

Using a straw or swallowing acidic beverages swiftly can also prevent excessive staining.

Finally after eating, always gargle with water and brush if possible after each meal.

If you cannot brush after each meal, make sure you do so twice a day, floss once a day and use sugarless gum to get rid of excess debris that can stain teeth after each meal or snack.

How To Prevent Yellow Teeth in Children

Yellow teeth are not restricted to just to grown-ups.

They are an equally big issue with kids too today.

Fortunately, simple and practical methods can prevent yellow teeth in children. They must be taught to brush and clean teeth regularly.

Rinsing after consuming dark colored drinks can also help. Do not expose young children to excess fluoride.

Regular cleaning by the dentist can also reduce yellowing and prevent tartar and plaque formation.

Do not use whitening products to remove yellow teeth in children. Your dentist is the best qualified to suggest the right option for cleaning teeth in children.

A dentist will also be able to identify the cause for teeth discoloration in children.

In some cases it could be due to some chronic problem that needs using caps or other ways to prevent wear and tear.

Parent,s must supervise very young children to ensure that they brush properly. Make sure that they spend at least 2 minutes per session when brushing.

Use good toothpaste with the right amount of fluoride suitable for kids.

Left untreated, yellow teeth can cause permanent damage by weakening enamel that can cause chipped teeth, tooth decay and so on. Baby teeth need to be protected so that children get strong and healthy permanent teeth

Health Problems Related to Teeth Stains

Poor oral hygiene that causes yellow teeth, plaque and tartar can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and many other problems.

  • Cavities: These are holes that can damage tooth structure
  • Gingivitis: causes bleeding and inflammation of the gums
  • Periodontits: This is a condition also called gum disease and is caused is caused when bacteria present in our teeth produce harmful toxins that can damage the gum. the supporting bones and ligaments around the teeth get destroyed causing tooth loss and other health conditions
  • Halitosis: Or bad breath occurs when food is not removed, causing teeth staining and bacteria to grow in the mouth. This could cause xerostomia or dry mouth, bronchitis, sinus infections, chronic acid reflux, postnasal drip, kidney or liver problems.
  • Abscesses can also form on teeth causing pain and inability to chew problem. While sometimes extraneous circumstances like another illness or hereditary causes can lead to gum disease, very often it is due to poor oral hygiene that causes yellow stains, tartar, and plaque. Kids are especially susceptible since they eat plenty of snacks and consume sodas, wear braces yellow teeth and health problemsand such.

Apart from the above oral health problems, gum disease and yellow teeth can be a sign of or lead to any of the following health problems:

  • Celiac Disease: This is a disease where the immune system reacts to gluten in the diet. While yellow teeth do not cause celiac disease, they could be a sign of this condition.
  • Bulimia: Sometimes excess vomiting can cause yellow teeth indicating bulimia – an eating disorder.
  • Diabetes: Most diabetics suffer from a weakened immune system. This makes them more susceptible to gingivitis. When gingivitis is not treated, it leads to periodontal disease. Serious periodontitis makes it difficult to control blood sugar levels and this increases the chances of even non-diabetic people contracting type-2 diabetes. When gums are weakened, bacteria can invade the bloodstream and affect the immune system causing side effects like elevated blood sugar levels. Hence, we see that this is a two-way street and yellow teeth can have a ripple effect and actually lead to diabetes.
  • Heart Disease: Gum disease increases the chances of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) and heart disease. Poor oral hygiene that causes yellow teeth leading up to gum disease can also worsen an existing heart problem.
  • Stroke: These are caused by blocked arteries and gum disease can increase the chances of such blocks leading to more chances of a stroke.
  • Premature Births: A pregnant woman with gum disease can go into premature labor and increase the chances of delivering a baby with low birth weight.
  • Respiratory Diseases: Yellow stains if not removed leave bacteria to thrive leading to gum disease and these bacteria can possibly cause lung problems or worsen lung infections if they already exist. This is true especially in older people in whom the bacteria from the teeth may attack the lungs and lead to pneumonia.

As we can see our teeth can tell a lot about our health and also affect it. It is best to take care of them as they are a great asset.

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1 Comment
  1. what can be done for a case like mine, where, i was born with a pneumonia and given anti biotics. when my teeth came out as a baby, they came out yellow and have been ever since. im 59 now and miraculously still have all teeth minus 3 molars. still yellow though.

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