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Yellow teeth: what causes them & do you need to worry about it?

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Gemma Wheeler

(GDC Number: 259369)

Yellow Teeth - Header Image

Hollywood might be the home of film, but it is also the birthplace of the what many of us today now see as the ‘perfect smile’.

It all started back in the 1930’s with the use of veneers to improve the smiles of actors.

Whilst brilliant white teeth are not natural for most of us, with so many of your friends, family, colleagues and the people you meet appearing to have much whiter and nicer smiles than yourself, you might be worrying about your dull, yellow teeth.

Well, do not be too concerned, because yellow teeth are natural.

In many cases, there are some simple solutions to improve the colour of your teeth, without resorting to cosmetic surgery.

Read the remainder of this article to learn all about the causes of yellow teeth and the steps you can take to improve the look and give yourself more confidence to smile.

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The short answer to yellow teeth

If you are short of time and want a quick summary of the main points, without the explanation then here it is:

  • Many myths exist about teeth
    • Yellow teeth are natural
    • Rarely do humans have brilliant white smiles without resorting to cosmetic dentistry.
  • Lifestyle and aging are the primary causes of yellow teeth.
    • Lifestyle choices such as the food and drink we consume as well as habits like smoking, tends to stain the exterior of the teeth.
    • Stains to the exterior teeth are treatable.
    • Some causes (trauma and medication) stain the inside of the tooth.  This is irreversible.
    • aging and genetics thin the enamel and expose more of the natural yellow hue of the dentin inside the tooth.  There is little that can be done about this.
  • Various different solutions to treat and get rid of yellow teeth
    • Lifestyle changes can have the biggest beneficial impact.
    • Less smoking, tea, coffee and certain food stuffs.
    • Brush and floss better and more regularly.
    • Drinking water after eating and drinking can help reduce the yellowing.
    • Cosmetic treatments, notably professional whitening offer quick and effective results.
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Are yellow teeth normal?

Everybody has different colour teeth. Some teeth are more grey whilst some are more yellow. In most cases, slightly yellow teeth are both normal and healthy. The only cause for concern would be a sudden change in colour.

Dr Gemma WheelerIn-house dentist – GDC Number: 259369

An overview this is.  To better understand the causes and how you can potentially improve the colour of your teeth, continue reading.

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Myths about tooth colour

You have probably heard a few stories or been told apparent facts about yellow or discoloured teeth.

Sadly some of these stories are incorrect, so let’s shine a light on a few.

Teeth should naturally be bright white

No, this is not the case.

The media has let us come to believe that this is true.

Whilst some do have naturally bright white teeth, this is quite rare and not what most would call natural.

The vast majority of people have teeth a few shades darker than what would be considered as ‘white’.

Those that do are blessed with thick enamel and the inner structure of the tooth (dentin) is paler than is average.

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Wearing braces will turn my teeth yellow

If this was the case there would be a lot more people with yellow teeth!

Failing to clean your teeth properly when wearing braces turns your teeth yellow.

Braces are there to simply move the teeth, and there is no reason for this to cause the teeth to turn yellow.

I wore a brace for 2 years and my teeth did not turn yellow.

The braces create an environment, with all the gaps and spaces for the bacteria to build up and form plaque.

It is much more difficult for the wearer to clean thoroughly and get all of the bacteria.

Therefore if areas are regularly missed and the plaque not removed, it can turn to tartar, which is much more prone to staining, depending what you put in your mouth.

Using a straw will stop the discolouring of my teeth

Straws direct fluid towards the back of the mouth and do not expose all the teeth to the liquid as they might be with drinking straight from a glass.

But, the way we move our tongue and swallow, does in reality mean that the liquid is swished around the mouth and across the very teeth we tried to avoid.

So, despite best efforts the tooth is still touched by these liquids, so there is no benefit to be gained here.

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The tooth structure

The human body, including the teeth are very complex, but it is worth taking a quick look at the structure of a tooth to better understand the topic of yellow teeth.

Without getting too technical, the tooth is made up primarily of 3 layers.

You have enamel, dentin and pulp.  It is the enamel and dentin that is of most interest to us when it comes to the change in tooth colour.

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The enamel is the visible layer of protection around the tooth and the part you and I see when looking at natural teeth.

Enamel is the exterior surface layer that is exposed to all that we put in our mouths and the part of the teeth we brush and floss clean.

Under the enamel layer is dentin, a softer tissue which makes up the majority of the tooth.

Enamel, although appearing a sort of white colour, is in reality translucent and acts a bit like a window through to the dentin below.

Dentin is naturally a yellow or pale brown colour and as such, this shines through the enamel to give the tooth the resulting colour.

Everyone’s enamel is a different thickness and the shade of the dentin changes, hence everyone’s teeth are slightly different shades.

Some teeth are also naturally darker than the other teeth in your mouth. It is perfectly normal for the upper canines to be a shade or two darker than the other teeth.

Those with thick enamel and very pale dentin will be blessed with the most white natural teeth, whilst those with thin enamel and dark coloured dentin will have the yellower looking teeth.

Because there is natural variation in enamel thickness and dentine colour, natural tooth colour can vary from grey to yellow to white, as shown in the natural colour guide used most commonly by dentists, the Vita Shade Guide. “In my experience, shade A3.5 is one of the most common natural tooth colours,” says in-house dentist Dr Gemma Wheeler “and you can see that is in the darker half of the Vita Shade Guide”.

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Why are my teeth yellow?

Although the tooth may have a natural yellowish hue, there are causes that can turn the tooth darker than what it once was.

The main causes are:

  • Lifestyle
  • aging

Lifestyle choices usually stain the exterior surface of the tooth, giving it a more yellow appearance. This is within your control.

aging and genetics change the tooth both internally and externally.  Most notable is that the enamel thins over the years and shows off more of the yellow dentin below.  A natural process that affects us all. This is outside your control.

Why Do I Have Yellow Teeth?

The difference between teeth staining and yellowing

Lifestyle and aging both make the teeth look more yellow.

aging is a natural process.

The most common aging effect, is the thinning of the enamel, exposing more of the natural dentin colour and in turn yellowing the look of the tooth.  There is little that can be done about this.

Lifestyle causes tend to stain the teeth.

Staining is either on the outside or inside of the tooth.

If it is on the outside of the tooth it is classed as ‘extrinsic’ while stains to the inside of the teeth are classed as ‘intrinsic’.

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Intrinsic staining tends to be as a result of medications or conditions such as fluorosis.  Nothing can be done to reverse this staining.

Extrinsic staining is on the other hand caused primarily by the foods we eat, the drinks we have and habits such as smoking.  This type of staining can be controlled and even reversed.

Yellowing is more often related to genetics or ageing rather than lifestyle. Whilst this will normally cause a change in colour for the whole tooth, or teeth, it is possible for it to show as bands across the teeth.

The most common aging effect on the teeth is the thinning of the enamel, exposing more of the natural dentine colour and in turn yellowing the look of the tooth.

Despite the causes being different, stains tend to give the tooth a yellowish colour.

There are very clear similarities between staining and yellowing and you can probably understand how the terms are used interchangeably, but subtle differences do exist, particularly when considering the treatment options.

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Sometimes even healthy teeth can look yellow. However coloured food such as curries can stain teeth yellow.

Dr Chhaya ChauhanIn-house dentist – GDC Number: 83940

Causes of yellow teeth explained

Lifestyle is the number 1 cause of yellowing (or staining) to the teeth, whilst ageing is another.

However, both are broad explainers for what are the real causes of the changes in tooth colour.

It is therefore important to be more specific and better understand the real causes of the yellowing or staining.

Here is a list of 12 of the most common causes:

  1. Smoking
  2. Poor oral hygiene
  3. Food
  4. Drinks
  5. aging
  6. Genetics
  7. Disease
  8. Medication
  9. Accidents & Trauma
  10. Environment
  11. Grinding
  12. Dentin

Looking in more detail at each cause:


When we smoke we inhale a number of different chemicals and ingredients, which are absorbed and stick to the enamel of the teeth.

Over time this seeps into the pores and coats the tooth surface to give a yellow hue.

Poor oral hygiene

The recommendation of brushing twice a day, for 2 minutes each time, comes as a result of much research into how much time is needed to clean the teeth effectively.

Improper removal of plaque causes the plaque to harden into tartar, which is very easy to stain.

Alongside brushing comes the act of flossing once a day too.

Too many people do brush for a lot less than this recommendation and skip the flossing part too.

Flossing along reaches up to 40% of the tooth surface that brushing does not reach, so failing to give your teeth the attention they need will mean that they are not cleaned properly and that the bacteria and substances that can stain and discolour the teeth remain in place.


Foods have something called chromogens, which have strong pigments that stick to the tooth enamel.

Other foods have tannins, which are plant based compounds that create the conditions for stains to stick to the teeth in the first place.

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So, whilst food is essential for us to live, it is also one of the causes of the yellowed teeth.

Some food stuffs are worse than others, well known foods that can stain the teeth are:

  • Curry
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Tomato based sauces
  • Soy sauce
  • Beetroot

Foods stain the tooth enamel and do not cause internal staining.

Teeth Discoloration | Colgate®


Just like the food we consume, drinks contain those same compounds that are great at sticking to and yellowing our teeth.

Popular drinks known to yellow teeth include:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Red wine
  • White wine
  • Alcohol
  • Sport drinks
  • Artificially flavoured drinks
  • Freshly squeezed juices

Drinks can cause staining because of their colour or can accelerate the wear of the tooth enamel so more dentin shows.  Drinks do not cause internal staining.


You and I will get older, that is a fact.

Getting older means a process of aging.

As we age different parts of the body change, the teeth are no exception.

The years of chewing and exposure to food and drink will aid in this aging process, gradually wearing away and thinning the enamel.

This thinning happens over many years.  The thinning means that the dentin inside the tooth can show through the translucent enamel more easily, giving the tooth a more yellow look.

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For some, the genes you inherit from the generation before you play a key role in the colour of your teeth.

Some people naturally have more yellow teeth than others, whilst some are blessed with thick layers of enamel that make the teeth look much whiter than most.

Genetics cannot be controlled.  So although you can look at your parents as part of the reason why your teeth might be yellow, they have no control, so can’t be blamed entirely.


Certain medical conditions will affect the teeth and age them prematurely.

Some diseases affect the thickness of the enamel and dentin and how prone they are to wear, for example amelogenesis imperfecta.

This can lead to external staining or yellowing.


Certain medications, be those prescribed or not can lead to the yellowing of the teeth.  Sadly this affects the inside, rather than the exterior of the tooth, most of the time.

Diseases that require very strong medications or medical treatments such as chemotherapy are known to have a yellowing effect on the inside of the tooth.

Antihistamines such as Benadryl, antipsychotic drugs as well as tetracycline and doxycycline (antibiotics), have been known to cause such discolouration.

Chlorhexidine is an ingredient used in some mouthwashes, and is particularly helpful in managing the early stages of gum disease.

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Accidents & Trauma

Physical damage or impacts to a tooth can affect the enamel and dentin and in turn the colour of the tooth.

If a tooth has died off, whether or not you have had root canal therapy, the tooth can often become discoloured. This is because the waste products in the dying pulp seep out into the dentine causing it to turn darker.


You probably know that you should use a fluoride based toothpaste for good oral health.

Some parts of the world have very high amounts of fluoride in the water (such as some parts of the USA, or India). This may cause too much fluoride to be swallowed which can the be deposited in bones and teeth.

As important as a small amount of fluoride applied to the teeth is, having too much fluoride in your body can lead to conditions such as fluorosis.

Where the body has been exposed to too much fluoride the teeth can be affected, causing a yellowing of the whole tooth or just spots of white or yellow on the surface.


Some grinding of the teeth happens completely naturally, as we chew our food and generally go about life.  The teeth touch, rub and grind against each other.

For some people, certain things can trigger additional and unwanted grinding of the teeth at times where it is not necessary.

Stress is a common cause.

Whilst it can happen when you are awake and you can subconsciously grind the teeth, it is too very common for it to happen as we sleep.

Also known as bruxism, the unnecessary additional pressures and forces put on the teeth can weaken the enamel and wearing it faster.  Again, this exposes more of the yellow dentin below it.

Small cracks in the enamel caused by too much pressure are also more likely to pick up extrinsic stains e.g. from food.


The tissue that makes up the majority of the tooth structure has different shades in different people.

Some dentin is more yellow than others.  Couple this with thinner enamel and the colour is more likely to show though

Diagnosing the cause of your yellow teeth – staining or natural yellowing

If you smoke 40 a day and drink a bottle of red wine and clean your teeth once a day, you probably now know, from reading the last section that this is a very likely cause of your yellow teeth.  But if you are older ageing can be playing a part too.

As we now know, there is little we can do about aging, but lifestyle factors can cause stains to the teeth, be that internal or external.

Stains internal to the tooth, tend to be less common are unfortunately irreversible.

However, the external staining to the teeth is reversible and many of us can do something about it.

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If you are not sure why or what is causing your yellowing the following might help you pinpoint the cause.

The staining has:

  • Always existed
    • Quite likely to be genetics, you have naturally darker teeth.
    • Trauma to the tooth or over exposure to compounds like fluoride when the tooth was developing.
  • Developed over time
    • The gradual change in colour can be as a result of extrinsic staining caused by food and drink such as coffee, tea, blueberries, curries etc.
    • The natural aging of the tooth structure.
    • If applicable just to 1 or a couple of teeth, decay, death of the tooth or resotations could be a cause.
  • Developed recently (last few days or weeks)
    • Typically as a result or surface staining that can be easily removed with thorough brushing or a professional clean.
    • If applicable just to 1 or a couple of teeth, decay, death or trauma might be the cause.
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The part of the tooth affected is:

  • The whole tooth
    • All teeth
      • Quite possibly age related as the enamel thins and the dentin becomes more exposed.
      • Extended use of medications for illness.
    • Just some teeth
      • If applicable just to 1 or a couple of teeth, decay, death or trauma might be the cause.
  • Just certain patched of the tooth
    • All teeth
      • Where a part of a tooth is affected, but is replicated on many of the teeth within the mouth, this is often as a result of extended exposure to certain medications.
      • Dental decay is another possible cause.
    • Just some teeth
      • Look for signs of decay or a weakened filling.
      • It could be a stubborn stain.

Still not sure?  Get an appointment with your dentist, raise your concerns and have a professional look at an assess your teeth.

Seeing a dentist is the best way to get confirmation of the real cause of the changes in colour to teeth.

Your teeth will yellow with age

Hopefully this is clear already, but it is worth reiterating as it is easy to worry about the change in tooth colour.

Your teeth will typically get more yellow as you age and there is little you can do about it.

Over the years the outer layer of the tooth, the enamel, will thin.

As a result, the natural yellow colour of the dentin below shows through with more ease.

The aging process is slow and gradual.

Whilst modifications to your lifestyle can prolong or indeed accelerate the ageing process, the reality is ditching all the potentially enamel thinning lifestyle choices is not going to stop the ageing process. The fact is, some thinning and yellowing will happen.

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Cumulative effect

As lifestyle choices are the number 1 cause of yellowing teeth it is important to understand that those choices we make have a cumulative effect.

How dark a tooth becomes generally relates to the regularity and level of exposure the teeth get to the causes.

Therefore, someone who smokes 40 cigarettes a day and drinks a bottle of red wine is likely to have teeth that are a darker yellow than if they drank just the red wine each day.

Prevention and delaying the yellowing

Preventing yellowing entirely is a lovely idealistic view.  The reality is that whilst there are steps you can take, rarely would they stop the yellowing completely.

You need to assess what it is worth, for most, taking a modest balance of steps to delay the yellowing is best.

Lifestyle changes are what is in order to achieve this delay.

Improve the regularity, and quality of your brushing and flossing.

See a dental hygienist every 6 months.

Cut back on the coffee and smoking as well to help delay that yellowing.

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Some of the damage may have already been done

The younger you are, the more opportunity you have to delay or take ownership of the yellowing process of the teeth.

Sadly for those who are older, a lot of the damage may well have been done already.

However, this does not mean there are not solutions.

As we have seen a large proportion of the yellowing is as a result of staining to the external layer of the tooth, which can be managed and in theory reversed.

If the yellowing is to the internal structure of the tooth, the damage is done and your options are significantly reduced.  Aside from veneers that mask the yellow teeth, little can be done.

The role of saliva

Have you ever wondered what the saliva in your mouth does?

Well it’s considerably more important and necessary than you might think.

It helps break down foods we eat as well as protect the mouth as a whole and the teeth.

It neutralises the acids and washes away a proportion of the bacteria that would otherwise eat away at the teeth causing decay and yellowing.

According to Mayo Clinic “Saliva supplies high levels of calcium and phosphate particles (ions) that enhance protection of the tooth’s enamel surface. The calcium and phosphate ions act to slow loss of tooth enamel (demineralization) and promote rebuilding of tooth enamel (remineralization). Saliva protects your mouth by washing away food and the sticky film of acid-producing plaque that can cling to teeth. Saliva also neutralizes damaging acids and limits bacterial growth that can dissolve tooth enamel”

Modern dentistry knows more than ever about the mouth and many of us are taking better care of our teeth than we once did.  However, with advances comes changes in lifestyle and new challenges the saliva has to deal with.

Were cigarettes, medications, and chromogen rich foods as prevalent as they are today?

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This then is where the brushing and flossing that we do comes in.  The physical contact of the bristles and the floss helps dislodge and lift the bacteria, plaque, tannins and chromogens that can discolour the teeth.

By perfecting your oral healthcare routine, you can really help yourself out.

As saliva’s role is to protect and remineralize the teeth, you might even consider a toothpaste such as that from Ultradex (view on Amazon) that is designed to help with the remineralization process.

Sugar free chewing gum, can help stimulate extra saliva production and protect your teeth, especially if there is added xylitol.  You get the benefit of the fresh breath from gum and the extra saliva that will work to protect your teeth.

Unfortunately, conditions such as dry mouth (xerostomia) exist.  With dry mouth there may be less saliva produced, or the saliva may not be as good quality.

Because of this, the saliva has a limited ability to protect the teeth.

Dry mouth is often caused by medications, but there are products available on the store shelves or from prescribed by a doctor that can help rehydrate the mouth and promote the natural action of saliva.

How to get rid of yellow teeth

Knowing that the vast majority of tooth yellowing is in fact as a result of staining to the teeth, which effects the external layer of the tooth, it is time to look at ways in which we can remove this staining.

Unfortunately, if the yellowing is due to age or is internal to the teeth the at home options are much more limited, namely masking the colour by using cosmetic treatments such as veneers.

Aside from cosmetic treatment, there is no single quick fix solution to getting rid of yellow teeth.  Even cosmetic treatments cannot guarantee whiter teeth for good.

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Popular solutions for getting rid of yellow teeth include:

  1. Regular brushing and flossing
  2. Professional teeth cleaning
  3. Quitting smoking or reducing the number smoked
  4. Changes in food consumed
  5. Changes in drinks consumed
  6. Changes in medication
  7. Mouthguards
  8. Natural whitening solutions
  9. At home whitening kits
  10. Simple professional whitening
  11. Veneers

The effort, cost and willpower for each solution increases from the 1st to the 11th solution.

With these solutions in mind, we can now pair them with the 12 causes of yellow teeth that we previously identified.

Take a look below at the causes and which of the the listed solutions are likely to be best for you.

  • Discolouration – Extrinsic – (Staining to the outer layer of the tooth)
    • Causes
      • Smoking
      • Poor oral hygiene
      • Food
      • Drinks
    • Possible solutions
      • Regular brushing and flossing
      • Professional teeth cleaning
      • Quitting smoking or reducing the number smoked
      • Changes in food consumed
      • Changes in drinks consumed
      • Natural whitening solutions
      • At home whitening kits
      • Professional whitening
      • Veneers
  • Discolouration – Intrinsic – (Staining to the inner layer of the tooth)
    • Causes
      • aging
      • Genetics
      • Disease
      • Medication
      • Accidents & Trauma
      • Environment
      • Grinding
      • Dentin
    • Possible solutions
      • Changes in medication
      • Mouthguards
      • Veneers
      • Professional whitening using special inside-out technique in some cases

Be aware that whilst these are common solutions that can work, the results will be different for one person to another.  The level of discolouration, our natural teeth and lifestyles are all different.

It is quite possible for you to see quite significant differences from the cheapest and simplest of solutions, whilst others may need to take the more expensive cosmetic whitening route to achieve noticeable results.

Whatever the colour and condition of your teeth, cosmetic options such as whitening and veneers can achieve the most significant improvements in very little time.  The downside tends to be the cost.

However, if the cause of yellow teeth is poor oral hygiene, smoking and disease then the results will be temporary if these other causes are not dealt with in some way.

Let’s take a look at the common solutions in a bit more detail.

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Regular brushing and flossing

One of the cheapest and simplest solutions to dealing with staining of the teeth.

In fact, whether you have staining or not, you really should look at getting this part of your lifestyle right, for the overall health of your teeth.

Brushing helps dislodge the plaque, bacteria, tannins and chromogens that alter the tooth’s colour.

You should brush twice a day, for 2 minutes each time.  1 brushing session should be just before you go to be at night and the other should ideally be first thing in the morning.

In addition, you should floss once a day also.

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It is perfectly fine to use a manual or electric toothbrush, but the best results will come from the consistent, high speed movements of the electric brush.  Not to mention the other conveniences that come as a result.

Our guide to the best electric toothbrushes can help you pick out the best brush for you.  Don’t worry, you need not spend lots to get an excellent toothbrush.

The technique for brushing differs between a manual and electric brush, so do make sure you are aware of just how you brush, because, how you brush is more important in some respects than what you brush with.  Did you know that you should angle the brush head at 45 degrees to the teeth?

Floss has long been the dentist recommended tools, but there are products such as interdental brushes and water flossers that can help make the task of flossing easier and more efficient.  Whilst water flossers

are not the gold standard, they can encourage you to perform interdental cleaning when you would otherwise not bother.

You think you need a whitening toothpaste to help get your teeth whiter.  Whilst they can certainly help in the early stages, it is not entirely essential — a good quality fluoride based toothpaste is almost as effective over longer periods of time, without being as abrasive.

With the right technique and tools improvements can be seen in a matter of days where the teeth are most heavily stained, but typically within a few weeks is when most will notice significant differences.

If after several weeks of through cleaning, no improvement is seen, it might just be you do not have staining as bad as you though, the colour is what is natural.

However, it may well be that you have heavy buildups that need professional attention.

Professional teeth cleaning

Dentists can make use of specialist tools to clean your teeth.

General recommendations are to get your teeth cleaned professionally every 6 months.

For this, you normally go to a dental hygienist.

Although not as widely qualified as a dentist, they are specialists in cleaning and making healthy your smile.

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A scale and polish can remove the most stubborn of marks and staining that you might have thought were permanent.

Such treatment does cost, but it is a very quick route to take to know just how clean you can get your teeth.  Your teeth will be no cleaner than straight after a visit to the hygienist.

Their tools can remove more plaque and stains than any toothbrush or cleaning you can complete at home.  To maintain the work done by the professionals, adopting a good oral hygiene routine is important.

If you teeth are still not at the colour you want after these cleanings, then cosmetic whitening is really your next choice.

Quitting smoking or reducing the number smoked

Ideally, for the sake of your teeth and the many other health benefits, you would stop and quite altogether.

However, we understand changing a habit like this can be incredibly hard.

However, considering whether you can cut down the number smoked or switching to newer options such as e-cigarettes is worth considering.  A lower number means less exposure to the teeth and e-cigarettes may not discolour teeth to the same degree.

If neither of these are an option, at the very least, do try to increase the intake of water you consume, particularly straight after smoking.  The water can potentially lift some of the substances left on the teeth.

If you can quit, cut back, or switch and drink more, then the likelihood of positive steps forward are even greater.

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Changes in food consumed

Many of our favourite foods contain tannins and chromogens which are not great for the teeth.

Curries, and fruits like blueberries are particularly bad.

Giving up food is not the solution, but changing how you eat foods, how often and how much might be.

How about a smaller portion each time?

Rather than opting for fruits like raspberries, maybe a hard fruit like an apple is an alternative?

Eating raw veg like carrots can naturally clean the teeth as you bite and eat them.

It is good for your overall health if you eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, but if you can add more veg to meals like a curry it may be possible to reduce the effects that food can have.

An effective option after consuming any food known to stain is to rinse the mouth out with water or mouthwash as this will lift and wash away a large proportion of the staining molecules.

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Changes in drinks consumed

You are doing some good to your body by consuming fruit juice over a soda, but when an orange or an apple is juiced, sugars are released and fibres broken down.

Orange and apple juice is acidic and you can consume a lot more in juice form than you can if eaten as a whole fruit.

So, when looking to have a fruit juice, for the sake of your teeth, might eating an orange or apple be an option.

Coffee and wine are very enjoyable to most of us, but the side effect is the staining they can do to the teeth.

Consider how much and how often you drink of both.

Could you cut a cup or glass or 2 out of your daily or weekly consumption.

Whether you can or not, drinking water not afterwards or in conjunction to can help wash away the excess ingredients that are responsible for making your teeth look more yellow.

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Changes in medication

Failing to take medication is not the answer.

But if you know that certain medications can or will stain your teeth, it might be worth considering whether other medications exist, that do not have the same side effects.

Speak to a doctor and see what choices if any, you have.

Your overall health and wellbeing is more important than yellow teeth.


Where you know you grind your teeth or suffer from bruxism you really should consider a mouthguard.

This is too applicable if you play sports like hockey where there is a real danger your teeth could take a significant hit.

Whilst you can buy mouthguards in pharmacies and many larger grocery stores, you are best getting one from the dentist office.

These are custom made and can absorb and even out the pressure across your jaw, whilst being a softer barrier between the 2 rows of teeth.

They can also give that extra level of protection, should you take a blow to the mouth in a sport.

Natural whitening solutions

Often stemming from the beauty industry, there are many suggested solutions to whitening the teeth and ridding them of stains at home, without the need for special products.

Instead, many solutions use products you have in your cupboard at home.

Some of the common natural options are:

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

The reality is that few work.  For those that do, they tend to be on the most stained teeth and much is, sadly an illusion.

Currently activated charcoal is the must have solution and is all natural as there are no man made ingredients in it.

There are various charcoal products on Amazon.com with rave reviews, but, you only need to read our buyer’s guide to activated charcoal, to understand the possible risks associated with using it.

At home whitening kits

The most effective treatments to whiten teeth are those that bleach the teeth to a whiter shade with chemicals.

At home whitening kits and professional dental treatments do just this.

At home kits can give yellow teeth a little extra boost, enough to make the difference that you want to your tooth colour.

They come in a variety of package options, from strips that stick to the teeth, thought to trays you put a whitening gel in and then fit around the teeth.

Crest’s 3D White strips (view on Amazon) are a very popular option that you could try.

However, with all things considered, this is not the best nor most effective route to take.  Whilst whitening can certainly be achieved, it tends to be minimal and requires top up treatments more frequently to keep the colour.

Whitening that is completed in the dental office is more effective, this is because the dentists use bleaching agents  that are much stronger than those in the at home kits.

Professional whitening

With little exception, the act of getting your teeth whitened by a professional is the most effective route to achieving a whiter and brighter smile and ridding your mouth of the yellow tinge.

It is a more expensive option, but might well be worth it for the results.

Yellow teeth: what causes them & do you need to worry about it? 25

These trained professionals use a much higher concentration of whitening chemicals, but because of their training they apply it correctly and most importantly safely, so as not to do damage to the gums and surrounding tissues that can react to the whitening agents.

Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide are the most commonly used components within these whitening gels that take your teeth to the desired shade.

Special lasers or lights are used to accelerate the whitening for fast and effective results.

Fairly long lasting, stains can still build up on the teeth in the exact same way as prior to any whitening, so assessing what caused the yellowing for you is important as this yellowing can and will return.

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An expensive option, but one that can radically change your smile.

This is the only effective option for those with internal staining to the teeth.

Veneers are artificial and act as a mask to the natural tooth.

Precision crafted, the best veneers are made from porcelain which is resistant to staining.

Because they are made to order, you can not only whiten your smile, but change the size and shape of your teeth by using veneers too.

Just because they are artificial, does not mean you need not take care of your natural teeth, these need to remain in good health, with regular brushing etc.

They are the best solution to dealing with yellow teeth that are caused by internal staining, aging, trauma, genetics and matters outside of your control.  Why not learn more about them, by reading our guide to veneers.

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Dentist’s don’t expect you to give everything up

Getting a dentists opinion can be the best solution to finding out what the real cause of the discolouration or yellowing to the tooth is.

They will do their own checks, ask you questions and come to conclusions based on what they see and have experienced.

However, many, yourself include perhaps, do not like to go to the dentist as they think they are going to get a lecture on how to look after their teeth.

This is simply not true.

The majority of dentists simply want you to have and retain your natural teeth for as long as possible.  They are there to help you achieve this and few are going to give you a lecture on what you should and should not do.

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Ultimately taking care of the teeth is the best route to achieve long term healthy teeth, but a dentist will advise you, based on your circumstances and current tooth health, how best to achieve this, with specific and personalized advice.

Dentists are humans too and they love the same things you do, so they are not going to tell you to stop drinking or eating certain foods.

Sadly too few people pay attention to the basic advice that dentists give and this is why sometimes it can feel like they give a lecture, when in reality they are just trying to do right by you.

Strike a balance

Some of the information in this article might not make for the best reading for some people, the thought of changing habits and lifestyle can be quite difficult, hopefully it has given the insight into the causes and at least equips you with the knowledge on what you can do to help tackle the issue of yellow teeth.

We don’t ask or expect of you to radically change your lifestyle overnight, just for the sake of whiter, stain free teeth, but if you can strike some form of balance and cut back or adapt slightly, maybe this is worth considering.

Smoke a few less each day.  Drink less coffee.

Consume more water, brush your teeth better and think a bit more about how you can help yourself, if you do not want such yellow teeth.

Yellow teeth: what causes them & do you need to worry about it? 29

How to remove stains on the teeth

As most of the teeth yellowing is caused by staining, primarily extrinsically, much of this can be removed.

We have already listed out some of the solutions available to help you make your teeth look whiter and to treat the causes, but just which do you try first?

The following is the steps we would take if we had yellow teeth that we knew were stained and we wanted to make them whiter.

  1. Regular brushing and flossing
    1. Brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes.
    2. Floss once a day.
    3. Use a fluoride based toothpaste
    4. Ideally use an electric toothbrush, but a manual brush is ok.
    5. Make sure you are using the correct brushing technique to remove as much of the staining as possible.
  2. Professional teeth cleaning
    1. Get a scale and polish completed every 6 months by a dental hygienist.
  3. Quitting smoking or reducing the number smoked
    1. The less that is consumed, the lesser the impact on the teeth.
    2. Switch to e-cigarettes.
    3. Drink water after to wash away as much of the contaminants as possible.
  4. Changes in food consumed
    1. Reduce the intake of tannin and chromogen rich foods like curries, raspberries, blueberries.
    2. Add in more fresh fruit and vegetables to the diet.
    3. Drink water after eating to wash away excess harmful substances.
  5. Changes in drinks consumed
    1. Reduce the intake of tannin and chromogen rich drinks like tea and coffee whilst too being considerate of the number of acid rich drinks like orange juice.
    2. Drink water after eating to wash away excess harmful substances.
  6. Professional whitening
    1. A sure fire way to rid the teeth of stains and improve their colour.
    2. Will not last for as long if causes of staining are not considered or reduced.
  7. Veneers
    1. Most dramatic but longest lasting approach to ridding the teeth of stains.
    2. Only masking the stained teeth that they are attached too.
    3. Require a good standard or oral healthcare.

My child’s teeth are yellow

If you are concerned about the teeth of your children, being yellow, then this is a good thing.

In reality, children’s teeth should not be yellow because their teeth will not have been exposed to the same things as an adults teeth as yet nor will they have aged.

However, there are a few things to note and be aware of.

If you are comparing the colour of their second (adult) set of teeth to their first set, then be careful, because the first teeth are always whiter than the second set.

Genetics can play a part too.  As a parent, do your teeth have a yellow tone to them?  If so, this could be natural.

Is the child receiving any medication or has the tooth or teeth been impacted in any way?  These are common causes of yellowing.

What about the child’s diet, is it balanced?

These are things to consider as to why the teeth may look yellow.

The teeth can and will still stain just like adults teeth though, so be aware of what might have caused such discolouration.

Simple steps to take are ensuring proper brushing.  You might want to invest in an electric toothbrush for your kids.  There are some great options available, that not only help clean the teeth well but educate and encourage better brushing routines.

For peace of mind, it is worth having a dentist take a look and give the all clear that everything is normal.

Yellow teeth: what causes them & do you need to worry about it? 30

Other types of tooth discolouration

Yellow is the colour most people’s teeth turn with staining, but actually teeth can turn a number of different colours.

The whole tooth may turn that colour, or maybe a part of it, be it a spot or line on the tooth.

Whilst many of the causes between coloured teeth are the same as the causes for yellow teeth, there can be subtle differences.

It is advisable to get a dentist to take a look if changes in lifestyle and better brushing routines don’t rid the problem.

So what other colours do teeth go?  Orange, green, brown, grey and black are all possible.

Orange teeth

Found near the gumline, the orange lines or spots seen on the teeth are typically a sign that the bacteria and plaque is not being removed from the teeth correctly.

This is a sign of the early stages of tooth decay.

Brushing the teeth more regularly and with the correct technique is the best course of action, but to help speed up the process, getting a scale and polish clean from a dental hygienist is advised.

Blue teeth

This is often a sign of staining to the inside of the tooth.  Commonly caused by medications, this staining cannot be reversed with ease.  Cosmetic solutions may dull the tone or mask it (veneers).

Yellow teeth: what causes them & do you need to worry about it? 31

Brown teeth

Like yellow teeth brown staining is usually linked to extrinsic stains and can often be reversed.

Lifestyle factors are normally responsible and a good brushing routine is a good place to start.  If this does not have the desired effects, consider professional cleaning, a change in your lifestyle or cosmetic treatments.

Grey teeth

Similar to teeth that have a blue tone to them, grey teeth are quite often as a result of staining to the inside of the tooth.

Medications are a well known cause, but the metals used in some fillings as well as trauma to the tooth could result in the tooth going such a colour.

Black teeth

Most often a sign that the exterior of the tooth is stained, such marks can normally be removed with thorough cleaning.  You may require a professional to scale and polish the tooth to remove the black mark.

A line or small spot often found on the front teeth, iron supplements or mouthwashes that contain ingredients such as chlorhexidine are known to be responsible for this.

Yellow teeth: what causes them & do you need to worry about it? 32

Green teeth

Varying from a light to dark shade of green, teeth of this colour are more commonly seen in children or younger patients.  The colour is seen most often on the teeth at the front of the mouth.

The exact causes can differ, but it is typically as a result of exposure to metals like nickel, mercury and copper.  Bacteria and fungi and certain blood diseases can also be responsible for this.

Whatever the colour of the tooth, if you are concerned, particularly if the colour change has been rapid, then it is worth seeking the assessment and opinion of a trained dental professional.


Yellow teeth can be very natural, genetics and aging makes them this way.

How white or yellow each individuals teeth are differs.

That said, the number 1 cause of yellowing is lifestyle.

Most of those lifestyle choices stain the exterior surface of the tooth, giving it a colour darker than that we are used to or expect.

Thankfully with a few exceptions the stains can be removed or treated with little cost.

The simplest investment can be a good brushing routine or a visit to the hygienist.

Cosmetic whitening is a more drastic, but fast and effective option for guaranteed results.

Where age has played its part or the staining is internal to the tooth, then veneers are the likely solution.

If you can delay the ageing and make simple lifestyle changes then that is great, you could be thankful you do.  However, it is about balance and it is not always worth forgoing what makes you happy just for the sake of slightly whiter teeth.

Try and strike that balance, forgo a coffee or 2.  Drink more water and be aware of what you can do to help your teeth.


Does it matter if teeth are yellow?

Generally speaking, it does not matter if your teeth are yellow.

The cause is either natural, be that aging or genetics.  Or, the cause of the yellowing is lifestyle factors that stain the teeth and make them look yellow.

Rarely is a yellow tooth a risk or a sign that it is unhealthy.

If you are happy with yellow teeth then this is fine.

For many, yellow teeth are a problem because they do not like the look and feel that they should be whiter and therefore take actions to achieve this.

Are yellow teeth healthy?

For the most part yes.  Yellow teeth are natural and happen in part as a result or aging and genetics, although other lifestyle factors can play a role.

The colour of the tooth is not necessarily a sign the tooth is unhealthy.

However if you have 1 or 2 teeth that are particularly yellow or stand out in comparison to the rest of the teeth in your mouth, this could be as a result of trauma or injury and may be worth seeking a professional opinion on.

If you are overly concerned or one tooth has yellowed significantly or at a rapid rate, it does not hurt to get it checked out by a dentist.

Are yellow teeth bad?

No, not necessarily.

Yellow teeth does not necessarily mean that you have any problems with them, nor does it mean they are unhealthy.

Yellow teeth are more normal than you might imagine and the natural colour of teeth is rarely bright white.  Society has led to many feeling that only white teeth are acceptable and healthy and as such yellow teeth can be considered bad, when in fact there is nothing wrong.

Your dentist will tell you at a regular checkup if there are any causes for concern.

Why do teeth go yellow?

The primary cause of yellow teeth is staining to the external layer of the tooth, the enamel.  This staining is as a lifestyle choices we make, this includes:

  • Smoking
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Food
  • Drinks

Lifestyle choices we have control over, other causes of yellow teeth we tend to have less control over and these will make our teeth appear yellow.

  • aging
  • Genetics
  • Disease
  • Medication
  • Accidents & Trauma
  • Environment
  • Grinding
  • Dentin

Does coffee stain teeth?


Coffee contains chromogens which have strong pigments that stick to the tooth enamel as well as tannins that create conditions that help these chromogens stick in the first place.

The continued exposure of the teeth to such will result in staining.

Good oral hygiene habits at home and regular professional cleanings of the teeth alongside can help keep these staining to a minimum.

Does green tea stain the teeth?


Although less likely to stain the teeth than the likes of black tea, the tannins that are responsible for the staining still exist within the tea.

Can yellow teeth become white?

The short answer is yes, yellow teeth can be made whiter.

How much whiter will depend on the cause of the yellow teeth in the first place.

Diet, genetics and staining are all contributors and causes.

Take a look at the ‘how to get rid of yellow teeth’ section of this article for more information on how yellow teeth can become white.

Can naturally yellow teeth be whitened?

Yes they can.  Seek out professional whiting available only through a dental professional.

How to clean yellow teeth?

You clean yellow teeth just like you would any other colour of tooth.  Twice a day for 2 minutes with a soft bristled toothbrush, and a fluoride based toothpaste.

Floss/clean interdental spaces at least once a day.

More abrasive toothpastes such as whitening pastes can help lift surface stains which might be the cause of yellowing, if the desire is to clean the teeth better to lift stains.  An electric toothbrush can too clean more effectively thanks to the consistent power delivery.

How to whiten yellow teeth fast?

Book into your dental hygienist for a clean and scale to remove as much surface staining and discolouration as possible.  This is a more cost effective option than whitening, but may not achieve the best results, depending on the cause of the yellow teeth.  Although more expensive, professional teeth whitening offered by a dental professional will offer the best results,  Within just a few hours, you can have much brighter and whiter teeth.


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About Jon Love

Jon is a leading voice on electric toothbrushes and has been quoted by mainstream media publications for his opinions and expertise.

Having handled & tested hundreds of products there really is very little he does not know about them.

Passionate about business and helping others, Jon has been involved in various online enterprises since the early 2000s.

After spending 12 years in consumer technology, it was in 2014 that he focused his attention on dental health, having experienced first-hand the challenge of choosing a new toothbrush.

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