An attractive smile that showcases gleaming, white teeth is a valuable asset by anyone’s standards. However, if you’re unhappy with your smile because of the color of your teeth, you’re not alone. Most adults would like to improve the whiteness of their teeth, according to a recent survey. While there are various causes of yellow teeth, don’t despair; there are simple and powerful steps you can take to keep your teeth shiny and white.
Why Tooth Enamel Stains
Healthy tooth enamel is hard, smooth and usually resists stains. But when normal wear and tear creates small cracks in the enamel (also known as craze lines), or your enamel softens due to acid exposure, the outer surface of your tooth enamel becomes more susceptible to what is often referred to as external or extrinsic staining.
If you’re not brushing properly or regularly, the sticky plaque and hard tartar that accumulate on your teeth can also stain, making your teeth look dingy and yellow.
Fluoride helps strengthen enamel and protects it from decay, but ingesting too much fluoride as a child, while teeth are developing under the gums, can result in permanent discolorations inside the tooth enamel, sometimes referred to as internal or intrinsic staining. These enamel imperfections are known as fluorosis and can range in color from chalky white to yellowish brown. Certain antibiotics, illnesses and high fever during tooth-forming years can also cause internal yellowing.
The only remedies for intrinsic defects are tooth-whitening procedures, which can even out the color of the tooth enamel. In severe cases, dentists often recommend veneers to cover the front of the teeth.
Foods That Cause Staining
Foods that promote extrinsic staining contain either dye-like pigments (chromogens) or plant-based compounds (tannins), which can stick to your tooth enamel. And the high acid content in some foods and drinks sets up an ideal environment for staining.
It’s no secret that coffee, tea and red wine stain teeth, but here’s why: Both coffee and tea contain tannins and are very acidic, while red wine is a triple threat with acids, tannins and chromogens. White wine won’t color your teeth, but its acidity can leave your enamel more vulnerable to stains from naturally pigmented foods, such as carrots, berries and cherries, or foods and beverages with added dyes, such as colored sports drinks.
Smoking and Other Tobacco Products
Smoking can yellow your fingers, but the tar from cigarettes, pipes and cigars also causes unsightly staining and yellowing of your teeth and tongue. Chewing tobacco has the same effect. In addition to damaging the appearance of your teeth, smoking also affects your oral health by increasing your chances of developing gum disease.
Tips for Whiter Teeth
You may not be ready to give up your morning coffee or blueberry pie, but here’s how to combat extrinsic stains while also improving your oral health.
- Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day and floss once a day.
- Reduce your intake of black coffee and tea, and try diluting these beverages with a splash of cream or milk.
- Swish water around your mouth after eating or drinking foods that stain or are high in acid content.
- Drink highly acidic beverages through a straw.
- Use whitening toothpaste.
- Quit smoking for the sake of your teeth and general health.
- Schedule regular professional cleanings—at least twice a year.
A beautiful smile that reveals shiny white teeth can be a valuable asset. Not only can a healthy smile boost your confidence, but 74 percent of adults believe an unattractive smile may hurt your chances of career success. Now that you know the causes of yellow teeth, you can take immediate action to keep your teeth stain-free, improve your oral health and brighten your smile.