What Causes Yellow Teeth and How to Treat Them

Are you worried about having yellow teeth? Thankfully, you’re not alone in feeling that way. Statistics show that the number one thing people want to change about their smiles is to have whiter teeth.1 While stained yellow teeth aren’t always a sign of bad oral hygiene, they can certainly make people feel more self-conscious of how their smiles look. We show our teeth when we talk, laugh, and smile for the camera, so it’s only natural to want our pearly whites to shine when they’re visible.


What causes yellow stains on teeth? Learn more about how your teeth may change color and ways to help them stay white.


Woman with yellow teeth smiling

Things That Can Cause Yellow Teeth


Your teeth don’t change color overnight, but it can still be alarming when you look in the mirror and notice that your shiny teeth are tinged with yellow hues. Yellow teeth can occur for several different reasons, some of which may not be in your control. Here are some things that can cause your teeth to look yellow:




The hard, outer shell of our teeth is called enamel, which is usually white in color.1 The outer layer of our enamel begins to wear away as we get older and reveals the dentin (the layer underneath the enamel) in our teeth, which is softer and more yellow in color.1




Dental calculus, or tartar can also affect the color of your teeth.2,3 This hard buildup can change the appearance of teeth and be harmful to your oral health in many ways. Tartar starts off as plaque, which is a sticky substance that covers your teeth and can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease.2 The bacteria in plaque can release acids that attack your tooth enamel after you eat a meal or snack.2 You should remove plaque from your teeth by thorough daily brushing and cleaning between your teeth, but plaque that is not removed can harden into tartar.2 Tartar makes it harder to clean your teeth and can cause gingivitis, or the early stage of gum disease when it collects above the gum line.2


Certain Foods and Drinks


Some foods and drinks contain intense color pigmentations called chromogens which can stick to the enamel.1 Chromogens can be accumulated in the tooth (intrinsic) or on the tooth (extrinsic) to cause stains.4 Popular drinks that are known to cause stains include coffee, tea and wine.1


Using Tobacco


Tobacco has two different chemicals that can stain your teeth: nicotine and tar.1 Nicotine turns into a yellow substance when it is exposed to oxygen, which affects the color of your teeth.1 Tar is a naturally dark substance that can darken your teeth as well.1




Believe it or not, your genetics may have something to do with the color of your teeth.3 The natural color and genetic makeup of a person’s teeth is set at birth.3


Certain Medications


The medications you take can also contribute to your tooth stains.1 Tooth stains can be a side effect of certain antihistamines, antipsychotics and high blood pressure medications.1 Radiation treatments, like chemotherapy, may also darken your teeth.1


Tooth Whitening Solutions


Thinking about whitening your teeth? Consult with your dental specialist before looking into tooth whitening solutions, as they may not all work for all teeth.1 Below are some ways you can whiten your teeth to add a little brightness to your smile:


Get Your Teeth Whitened In-Office


Going to your dentist may be the quickest solution for whitening your teeth. In-office bleaching usually requires one or two trips to your dentist’s office.1 Your dentist will apply a whitening solution that either contains hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to your teeth after adding some protection to your gums.1 Whitening bleaches work by breaking stains into smaller pieces to make the color less concentrated.1 Yellow teeth work well with whitening, but will not work on artificial teeth like veneers, crowns or fillings.1

While whitening is a quick and efficient way to whiten your teeth, there are a few downsides to consider. If overused, whitening procedures may irritate your enamel and gums.1 Whitening procedures may also irritate the nerve of your tooth and lead to temporary sensitivity, so be sure to talk to your dentist and see if it is right for you.1


At-Home Whitening Kits


If you feel more comfortable with bleaching from home, ask your dentist for a custom-made whitening kit.1 If your dentist believes at-home whitening is a good option, then follow the directions given to bleach your teeth at home. This procedure can take anywhere between a few days and a few weeks to work.1 It’s important to consult with your dentist if you experience any discomfort or sensitivity.


Use a Whitening Toothpaste


Incorporate a little whitening into your daily brushing routine by using a whitening toothpaste. Whitening toothpastes are made with polishing agents that work to effectively remove surface stains that make your teeth look yellow.1 If you’re looking for a good whitening toothpaste to use, Aquafresh has a great selection of whitening toothpastes to choose from. Try products like Aquafresh Extra Fresh + Whitening Toothpaste and Aquafresh Extreme Clean Whitening Action Toothpaste to help whiten your smile and protect your teeth.


Try to Stay Away from Natural Teeth Whitening Methods


While it might be convenient to try making your own whitening solutions at home, some natural DIY methods can actually end up harming your teeth.4 Avoid using acidic household items, such as lemons, oranges or vinegar to whiten your teeth, as acid can wear away at your enamel.4 Other popular whitening solutions, like activated charcoal and turmeric, are not proven to be safe or effective for whitening teeth.4

By using effective whitening methods and maintaining good oral health, you can find confidence in your smile again. Brush up on dental hygiene practices with helpful resources from Aquafresh.

Source Citations:

  1. Whitening: 5 Things to Know About Getting a Brighter Smile. American Dental Association. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az- topics/w/whitening  Accessed 4/1/2022.
  2. Plaque. American Dental Association. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/p/plaque  Accessed 4/1/2022.
  3. Oral health facts and tips: Tooth whitening. Oral Health Foundation. https://www.dentalhealth.org/Blog/facts-tips-tooth-whitening  Accessed 4/1/2022.
  4. Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact vs. Fiction. American Dental Association. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/w/natural-teeth-whitening  Accessed 4/1/2022.

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