What causes yellow teeth? Easy tips to make your teeth white again

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Are your yellow teeth making you feel self-conscious? Do they stay that same shade of yellow even though you brush them thoroughly? If your teeth aren’t as white as they used to be, or you’re just dissatisfied with your natural colour, perhaps you’re wondering how to get rid of yellow teeth (and why they are yellow in the first place).

man's teeth with stains
Teeth yellow for a number of reasons

It’s natural to be conscious of your smile, but off-white teeth aren’t necessarily a sign of poor oral health. There are many factors that contribute to yellow stains and tooth colour. Some are within your control, but others are not – some people just have naturally yellow teeth.

Keep reading to find out what causes yellow teeth and how to make teeth white naturally from yellow. With so many different solutions to try – both natural and chemical – we hope you find one that works for you so you can get back to smiling with confidence.

 

Best Products for Yellow Stains
LiveCoco, Activated CharcoalCheck the latest price
Results: after the first use
Applications: 300
Contains: 80g powder
Smile Avenue Teeth Whitening KitCheck the latest price
Treatment takes 7-14 days, 10-30 minutes per day
Results appear within 4-6 days
Oral-B Pro 650 PinkCheck the latest price
Modes: 1
Speed: 40,000 oscillations per minute
Charge lasts: 14 days
Colgate 360 OpticCheck the latest price
Special polishing bristles
Cheek and tongue cleaner
Dual action head

Best Products for Yellow Stains

LiveCoco, Activated Charcoal

Results: after the first use
Applications: 300
Contains: 80g powder

Check the latest price

Smile Avenue Teeth Whitening Kit

Treatment takes 7-14 days, 10-30 minutes per day
Results appear within 4-6 days

Check the latest price

Oral-B Pro 650 Pink

Modes: 1
Speed: 40,000 oscillations per minute
Charge lasts: 14 days

Check the latest price

Colgate 360 Optic

Special polishing bristles
Cheek and tongue cleaner
Dual action head

Check the latest price

Myths about yellow teeth

Many of the ideas people have about white and yellow teeth are factually inaccurate. If you’ve been believing any of these things, you’d better think again…

Myth 1: Teeth are naturally bright white

layers of a tooth
Translucent enamel allows yellow dentin to show through

A few lucky people may be blessed with pearly white teeth, but most people’s teeth are naturally a couple of shades darker. In fact, really bright white teeth can actually look quite unnatural. Natural teeth are usually tinged with yellow or grey.

To understand the reason why, let’s take a look at the anatomy of the tooth. On the outside we have a layer of enamel, which is a blueish-white colour. But enamel is translucent, which allows the layer of dentin below to show through. Dentin is a darker yellow colour, and this is what gives teeth an off-white appearance.

So, it’s really the shade and thickness of your tooth enamel which determines your tooth colour. For some people, it’s natural to have yellow teeth. If you brush and floss every day but your teeth are still not white, you may well be one of those people with naturally yellow teeth.

Myth 2: Off-white or yellow teeth are bad or unhealthy

This is a myth pushed on us by companies who want people to spend hundreds of pounds getting a “perfect” Hollywood smile. A 2018 survey revealed that 46% of under-34s believe that discoloured teeth mean bad breath, while 44% think it’s a sign of poor hygiene. But neither of these things are necessarily true.

Although yellow plaque deposits and heavy staining are not healthy, it’s quite possible for perfectly clean and healthy teeth to be a shade of yellow. Teeth whitening procedures often work by stripping or penetrating the outer layer of enamel, which weakens teeth if repeated numerous times. So in many cases, yellow teeth are stronger than bright white ones – as long as they are kept clean.

Of course, you may still want to improve the aesthetic appearance of your smile by whitening your teeth, and we have some more information about that below.

Myth 3: You get yellow teeth with braces

tartar on teeth with braces
Wearing braces requires extra care with teeth cleaning

Some people do end up with yellow teeth from wearing braces, but it’s not necessarily the braces themselves that are to blame. Bacteria can easily build up around the brace brackets so it’s important to be extra careful with cleaning your teeth and flossing during this time. If you keep up a good oral hygiene routine, wearing braces needn’t result in discoloured teeth.

If you’re worried about your teeth turning yellow with braces, you could consider a different style of brace. Lingual braces are fixed behind your teeth so any marks they leave are hidden inside your mouth. Alternatively, “invisible” braces are removable so you can clean your teeth as normal.

On a side note, if you wear metal braces with coloured bands, did you know the colour you choose can make your teeth look brighter or more yellow? Read more in our full article on coloured braces.

Myth 4: Brits have worse teeth than Americans

Perhaps there is some truth in this stereotype, but it could simply be because Americans spend more on cosmetic dentistry than Brits. In 2015, just 3% of Brits had had their teeth whitened, compared to 14% of Americans.

But with increasing pressure from the media to have a perfect smile, the cosmetic dentistry industry is quickly picking up speed in the UK. A survey from 2018 found that the number of people who had whitened their teeth had jumped to 24%. Perhaps it won’t be long before we can finally shake off our reputation as a nation with bad teeth.

So why are my teeth yellow?

Now we’ve cleared up some common misconceptions, let’s look at the things that may be responsible for your teeth going yellow.

You get yellow teeth from smoking

stained teeth from smoking
Smokers are prone to yellower teeth

Smoking causes yellow teeth because of the tar, nicotine and other chemicals carried in the smoke. These seep into the pores in your tooth enamel, staining its natural colour.

A study conducted in 2005 found that 28% of smokers had moderate to severe levels of tooth discolouration, compared to 15% of non-smokers. The study also revealed that smokers were generally less satisfied with the state of their teeth.

Do E-cigarettes make your teeth yellow?

E-cigarettes may not discolour teeth to the same degree, but they still contain nicotine which becomes yellow when it mixes with oxygen.

Smoking making your teeth yellow is not the only oral health problem you need to worry about, either. For example, nicotine causes gums to recede and can lead to gingivitis and periodontitis.

Slack oral hygiene causes yellow stains

If you notice a yellow buildup on your teeth, it’s probably plaque or tartar. Plaque forms when bacteria from food and drink particles aren’t cleaned properly from your teeth. Over time, plaque hardens to form tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist.

This hard yellow stuff can form on or around your teeth if you don’t brush often enough or thoroughly enough. Not only does it look bad, it contributes to bad breath and a whole load of other oral health complications.

Foods that make your teeth yellow

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the things you put into your mouth have an effect on the colour of your teeth. If your teeth are stained yellow, it might be because of foods such as these:

  • Coffee and tea
  • Red wine
  • Curries
  • Tomato sauces
  • Berries
  • Soy sauce
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Beetroot

There are other foods and drinks which, although they don’t cause staining themselves, contain acids that eat away at your tooth enamel. This reduces the ‘whiteness’ of your teeth and also leaves them more susceptible to staining. Watch out for:

bad for teeth
It may seem like a healthy option but beware the acidity of fruit juice
  • Fizzy drinks (heavily coloured ones can also cause stains)
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Sports drinks
  • Sugary foods
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • White wine and many other alcoholic drinks

Rinsing your mouth with water after consuming these products will help minimise the damage from any acid.

Ageing: Do teeth yellow with age?

As if getting older wasn’t bad enough, it’s natural for your teeth to become yellow as you age. This is because the protective enamel layer becomes thinner, revealing more of the yellow dentin underneath.

Genetics: Is it natural to have yellow teeth?

If you have had yellowish teeth all your life, your parents may be to blame. Genetic variances can affect tooth colour and enamel porosity – and more porous enamel is more liable to stain.

Medication: Do antibiotics make teeth yellow?

Some antibiotics such as tetracycline and amoxicillin can affect the colour of teeth, especially in younger children. Drugs prescribed to adults for allergies and high blood pressure may also have this side effect. Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about this.

Diseases that cause yellow teeth

Some illnesses might cause yellow stains or discoloured teeth, particularly those that affect the liver. Patients who undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer may also find their teeth turning a brownish hue.

Teeth whitening treatment is not usually covered by the NHS, but exceptions may be made in cases where there is a medical reason for the discolouration.

How to get rid of yellow teeth

Turning your teeth from yellow to white is often easier said than done. However, there are several approaches you can take depending on your budget, the results you want, and how quickly you want to see a difference.

How to make teeth white naturally from yellow

There are a couple of ways you can try to get rid of yellow teeth naturally before you turn to more drastic solutions.

Get them properly cleaned

You should visit your dental hygienist every six months for a scale and polish, unless your dentist recommends otherwise. Getting your teeth scaled involves removing any tartar build-up and then polishing the surfaces of your teeth with special instruments.

You might be surprised at how much brighter your teeth appear after this.

Try a natural whitening solution

Before turning to chemical whitening methods, you might want to try some natural ways to fix yellow stains. A quick online search will bring up all kinds of alternative techniques that people swear by, but here are some of the most popular:

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

Some whitening toothpastes include natural ingredients to help with whitening, although the abrasiveness of these may cause sensitive teeth with prolonged use.

livecoco charcoal powderOne of the best natural products for yellow stains in the UK is LiveCoco’s raw activated charcoal powder. Made from coconut shells with no other added ingredients, it has received rave reviews from smokers and tea and coffee drinkers who have noticed a difference after just a few uses. The 80g tub contains enough powder for around 300 uses, so it’s pretty good value for money. Just be careful of the mess it makes!

 

We have a full article on the benefits of activated charcoal for teeth whitening so check that out if you want to know more.

Other ways to make yellow teeth white again

If you want more drastic results, you can consider other kinds of teeth whitening, or even veneers.

The following short BBC presentation discusses some different kinds of teeth whitening and how safe they are:

Use a home whitening kit

There are many affordable ways to whiten your teeth at home. You can buy strips, pens, bleaching trays, LED kits and more in your bid to brighten your smile.

Naturally, each of these methods varies in its cost, effectiveness and ease of use. Generally speaking, home treatments won’t be as effective on badly stained teeth as professional treatments.

For an effective and easy-to-use kit in the UK, the Smile Avenue Professional Tooth Whitening Kit is a good choice. It includes a tooth cleaning spray, an LED accelerator, and an easy-to-use fixed shape mouth tray.

You get 30ml of whitening gel, much more than with some other kits. It can last for up to two complete applications, depending on how quickly you see results.

It doesn’t contain hydrogen peroxide, so it’s a gentler option for people worried about tooth sensitivity. The fact that all the ingredients are made in the USA should give users that extra peace of mind about quality, too.

Read our full review of Smile Avenue whitening kit.

 

If you’re considering using a home teeth whitening kit, check out our full article on whitening kits to help you choose the right one for you.

Get professional whitening

Probably the most effective way to remove yellow stains is to visit your dentist for a course of professional whitening. Using lasers or LEDs with concentrated bleaching products, you can get results in a single visit. It won’t come as a surprise that these treatments are also the most expensive.

To find a dentist near you for professional teeth whitening simply visit toothpick.com.

 

Just be sure to avoid beauty therapists and other unqualified individuals offering whitening services illegally. Only trained dental professionals are permitted by law to carry out whitening procedures on patients.

Want to know more about different whitening methods and how effective they are? We covered this topic in much more detail in our guide to teeth whitening.

Veneers

If your teeth are not just discoloured but also crooked or chipped, you may want to kill two birds with one stone by getting veneers. These thin covers are placed directly onto your existing teeth. They can be made to match your natural teeth if you just need one or two, or you can transform your smile with veneers across all your visible teeth.

Keeping your teeth clean

Whatever the shade of your teeth now, you can help prevent any further yellowing by taking good care of them. This means brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least daily. Use a fluoride toothpaste as this helps strengthen enamel. You can also use mouthwash, but don’t rinse immediately after brushing since this can wash the fluoride away.

And remember that list of foods and drinks that stain or damage teeth? Try to limit your consumption of these, or at least rinse your mouth with water after you have had them.

Yellow teeth in children

A child’s milk teeth are usually whiter than their permanent teeth, so don’t be alarmed if their first adult teeth seem quite yellow in comparison with the remaining baby teeth. But if you’ve noticed that your child or toddler has yellow teeth, it’s worth checking that it’s not a sign of more serious problems.

protecting kids teeth
Try to encourage teeth-friendly choices

Children’s teeth (both baby and adult) may become discoloured for many of the same reasons as adults’, i.e. diet, poor oral hygiene, genetic factors, medications, and illnesses.

Take the same precautions as you would for yourself; brush well twice a day and limit sugary snacks and other foods that may damage enamel. If you have trouble brushing your child’s teeth thoroughly, consider investing in an electric toothbrush which might make the task more enjoyable.

Also take your child to the dentist for regular checkups so any dental problems can be addressed early on. If you are concerned about the shade of your child’s teeth, mention it to your dentist at your next visit. Avoid using any whitening products – even natural ones – on your child, unless your dentist recommends you do so.

Read more about the problems that can affect children’s teeth in our guide to oral health for kids.

Do you need to find a dentist near you for you or your child? Use toothpick.com to locate a dentist taking appointments now. Remember that regular visits are the best way to treat problems before they become too serious.

FAQs

Yellow teeth during pregnancy

pregnant woman with morning sickness
Morning sickness may affect your tooth enamel

Pregnancy can take a toll on your oral health for a number of reasons. Hormonal changes may make gums more susceptible to plaque buildup and inflammation, so pregnant women often experience bleeding gums. Iron supplements, which pregnant women are often advised to take, can cause dark spots on teeth. And if you experience morning sickness, acid from vomiting or reflux can start to erode your tooth enamel.

Pay special attention to your oral hygiene routine while pregnant and take advantage of free NHS dental visits.

If you experience yellow teeth during pregnancy and you want to whiten them, ask your dentist which products are safe to use. They will probably advise you to avoid peroxide-containing products until after your baby is born. There is no evidence that these cause harm to you or your developing baby, but equally there haven’t been any studies to show they are safe. These products also won’t do your sensitive gums any good.

It is safe to use a whitening toothpaste while pregnant, though. Whitening ingredients are used at much lower concentrations in toothpastes, so don’t pose a health risk. You may still want to choose one with natural ingredients – our natural toothcare guide has some product recommendations and natural toothpaste recipes.

What is the best toothbrush for yellow teeth?

If you want to remove yellow stains from your teeth, there are various manual and electric toothbrushes available which are specially designed to polish teeth and remove surface stains.

whitening toothbrush for yellow teeth
Special brush heads help remove stains from teeth

The Colgate Optic White is a simple manual toothbrush with whitening cups and polishing bristles, as well as a cheek and tongue cleaner to help with overall oral hygiene.

If you’d prefer an electric toothbrush, the Oral-B Pro 3D White is an affordable option. It comes with special whitening heads and has a two-minute timer so you can be sure you’re brushing for long enough. These heads are compatible with other Oral-B toothbrushes, so you don’t necessarily need to buy a whole new unit. Other manufacturers also make whitening heads for their toothbrushes.

Bear in mind that a special whitening toothbrush won’t make up for a poor brushing technique. Make sure you’re brushing and flossing properly in the first place rather than relying on a new toothbrush to fix your problem.

Do tea and coffee make your teeth yellow?

Unfortunately, yes. Tea and coffee are some of the worst culprits when it comes to staining teeth, especially as most Brits drink one or the other every day.

The staining occurs when tannins, organic compounds found in these plants, get absorbed by porous tooth enamel. Tea contains higher levels of tannins than coffee, with green and black teas having the highest concentrations. The stronger your brew, the more likely it is to stain your teeth.

You can reduce the chances of tea and coffee staining your teeth by rinsing with water as soon as you finish your drink. And, of course, keep brushing twice a day. A whitening toothpaste like Crest 3D White will also help keep stains at bay.

What are the best braces colours for yellow teeth?

If you’re getting metal braces, you’ll have a choice of colours for the small elastic bands that fit over each bracket to hold the wire in place. The colour(s) you choose can make a big difference to the appearance of your teeth and smile.

braces colours for yellow teeth
A bright colour will add contrast and make teeth look whiter

You might think that white is the obvious choice if you want a whiter smile, but that’s not the case if your teeth look yellow rather than white. The contrast between the bright white bands and your not-so-white teeth will make them look even more discoloured. Similarly, yellow or gold bands can highlight the yellowness of your teeth.

Darker colours will actually make your teeth look whiter, although they will also make your braces more obvious. Our guide to coloured braces has more advice for choosing a shade that suits you.

For a more inconspicuous way to straighten your teeth you may opt for ceramic braces rather than metal. Ceramic braces come with either clear or tooth-coloured brackets. As a general rule, clear brackets look better with naturally yellower teeth while tooth-coloured brackets look better with whiter teeth. It’s the same logic as with coloured elastics – white materials make your teeth look darker in comparison.

If you really don’t want to draw attention to your teeth while you fix your smile, invisible braces are the best option. These clear aligners are removable and don’t have any noticeable wires or brackets. Find out more about invisible braces like Invisalign here.

What is the best lipstick in the UK for yellow teeth?

Just like coloured braces, your choice of lipstick colour will also change the look of your teeth.

Generally speaking, yellow and brown hues will highlight any discolouration, while blue and purple hues will create the contrast that makes teeth appear whiter. This article from Elle has some more useful information about which shades to choose and avoid.

They single out orange lipsticks, neon hues and frosty shimmers as the worst offenders for making your teeth look discoloured.

What causes yellow teeth? Easy tips to make your teeth white again
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Sources

NHS (National Health Service) https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-keep-your-teeth-clean/ Consulted 23rd April 2019.

National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16262034 Consulted 23rd April 2019.

Dentistry https://www.dentistry.co.uk/2018/05/14/smoking-versus-vaping-worse-teeth/ Consulted 23rd April 2019.

Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – QVH https://www.qvh.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/The-effect-that-smoking-has-on-your-oral-health-Rvw-Feb-2020.pdf Consulted 23rd April 2019.

Oral Health Foundation https://www.dentalhealth.org/tooth-whitening Consulted 23rd April 2019.

 

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