Since our society tends to correlate white teeth with having optimal dental health, it can make people wonder whether naturally yellow teeth are healthy or even normal.
The truth is that teeth vary in color from one person to another. Much like the varying degrees of skin and eye colors, some people can have naturally white teeth, whereas others may have a yellower tint.
In this article, we’ll discuss the factors that contribute to yellow teeth and if they can be whitened.
Are yellow teeth considered healthy?
In many cases, a person can have yellowish teeth while simultaneously having perfect oral health.
The color of teeth can be influenced by multiple natural factors, like genetics and the thickness of tooth enamel.
On the other hand, lifestyle choices and dental problems like tooth decay and gum disease can also be main contributors that shouldn’t be overlooked.
While yellow teeth do not necessarily indicate poor oral health, it’s recommended to consult with a cosmetic dentist if you’re concerned about the color of your teeth or want to achieve a whiter smile.
Are yellow teeth permanent?
Knowing what the underlying cause of tooth discoloration is can give us insight into whether the yellow hue can be reduced, removed, or if it is permanent.
Tooth discoloration can be attributed to two main types of stains: extrinsic and intrinsic.
Extrinsic stains occur on the outer layer of the enamel. They are primarily caused by a person’s lifestyle habits, such as the foods and drinks they consume (i.e. tomato sauces, coffee, red wine, and dark sodas), tobacco use, and poor hygiene. All of these can create plaque build-up and stubborn stains.
Being that extrinsic stains only affect the surface of teeth, they are usually reversible and can be effectively treated through lifestyle changes, proper oral hygiene, and teeth whitening treatments.
Intrinsic stains, on the other hand, occur within the tooth’s structure itself beneath the enamel layer. These stains can be caused by factors like tooth decay, certain medications, genetics, or excessive fluoride consumption during tooth development. When the enamel becomes thinner, the yellowish color of the dentin layer beneath it becomes more visible, giving your teeth a yellow tint.
While these kinds of stains are oftentimes permanent, alternative treatments, like veneers, are available to improve the appearance of yellow teeth.
With over 25 years of experience in cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Delwyn Dick, DDS, and Dr. Lamont Murdoch, DDS, at Kootenai Dental Group in Coeur d’Alene, ID can provide you with the most suitable whitening treatment based on your specific needs and desired outcome.
Can naturally yellow teeth be whitened?
Yes, yellow teeth can be lightened, if not completely whitened.
As previously mentioned, the degree to which your teeth can be whitened will depend on the cause of the stains and discoloration.
The most common whitening options for extrinsic stains include whitening toothpaste, over-the-counter products, and professional whitening treatments.
- Whitening toothpaste: Toothpastes specifically designed to “whiten teeth” contain mild doses of a whitening agent that can help reduce surface stains. Since it is mild, it can take a very long time to see any results, especially for those who have deeper stains. Whitening toothpastes are better for maintaining teeth that have already been whitened, rather than whitening teeth that are yellow to begin with.
- Over-the-counter products: Whitening kits and strips that are sold over the counter contain a slightly stronger dose of the whitening agent (typically hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide) however they’re still not strong enough to provide noticeable results. While they can break down surface stains and reduce the yellowing of teeth, they oftentimes require multiple applications, which creates a risk of enamel erosion and gum irritation. Those who experience tooth sensitivity or other dental problems should consult with their dentist prior to using any over-the-counter treatment.
- Professional whitening treatments: Professional treatments offer the best whitening options for extrinsic stains. The products used by cosmetic dentists contain higher concentrations of the bleaching agents needed to target deep stains thereby providing the most noticeable and longest-lasting results. The trays we use at Kootenai Dental Group are customized to fit your teeth so that the active ingredients don’t come into contact with your gums and cause irritation. As for intrinsic stains, we offer alternative solutions for that as well.
How to prevent yellow tooth enamel
In addition to professional whitening treatments, the following recommendations are some of the best ways you can maintain your teeth white:
- Maintain a good oral hygiene routine. The most effective way to prevent the recurrence of surface stains is to establish healthy dental hygiene practices. Brushing your teeth after meals will ensure that plaque buildup doesn’t occur. Flossing at least once a day is crucial for cleaning the areas between your teeth where the bristles of a toothbrush cannot reach. Removing food particles from these areas helps prevent tartar buildup, cavities, and reduces the risk of yellowing and discoloration.
- Visit your dentist for dental cleanings. Getting your teeth professionally cleaned once or twice a year helps remove surface stains that contribute to the yellow appearance of tooth enamel.
- Limit your consumption of staining and acidic foods and drinks. Red wine, coffee, tea, orange juice, and acidic foods can contribute to the yellowing of tooth enamel. If you do indulge in these foods and drinks, rinse or brush your teeth afterward.
- Quit using tobacco products. Whether smoked or chewed, tobacco is notorious for causing yellow stains on teeth.
Why are my teeth still yellow after whitening?
Several factors can contribute to your teeth still appearing yellow after a whitening treatment.
- Intrinsic stains: Most tooth whitening treatments target extrinsic stains, not intrinsic stains. Prior to committing to any whitening method, especially over-the-counter products, consult with your dentist to determine which is the cause of your tooth discoloration. If intrinsic stains are the culprit, they can recommend alternative treatment options.
- Enamel thickness: The thickness of your tooth enamel plays a significant role in the appearance of your teeth. Thin enamel can make it more challenging to achieve a completely white smile because the underlying yellowish dentin layer of the teeth may show through. In such situations, cosmetic dental procedures like bonding or veneers may be recommended to mask the yellow appearance and enhance the whiteness of your smile.
- Lifestyle factors: After a teeth whitening treatment, it’s important to be mindful of your habits and reduce or discontinue the ones that are known contributors to tooth discoloration.
- Incomplete treatment: When it comes to over-the-counter products, it can take multiple applications to reach a noticeable level of whiteness. If you don’t follow the treatment consistently, you may not see any results at all. Professional teeth whitening treatments, on the other hand, are not only the safest option, but they can provide instantly noticeable results.
- Low doses of the active agent: Over-the-counter treatments have low doses of the whitening agent to begin with, so seeing results can take some time. Professional treatments will provide instant results however, because higher concentrations of the whitening agent are used. If you have tooth sensitivity, the dose may be reduced to minimize discomfort.
The color of teeth can be influenced by multiple factors, including genetics, lifestyle choices, and oral health.
Yellow teeth can be natural and don’t necessarily indicate poor oral hygiene or dental problems. However, if you desire a whiter and brighter smile, there are ways to attain it.
Dr. Delwyn Dick is the best dentist in Coeur d’Alene, ID. With extensive experience in dental implants, veneers, and whitening treatments, he can provide you with a customized plan to help you achieve the smile you desire!
Call Kootenai Dental Group at 208-762-8750 for a consultation!