By Dr. Laura Kearney
Many of our patients work hard to keep a bright, white smile. While some elect to have various whitening procedures or products, many simply keep a beautiful smile with basic dental hygiene: brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings.
But if you keep good care of your teeth, why would your teeth still be yellow?
Why do I have yellow teeth even though I brush them?
To answer this question, it’s important to learn what causes yellow discoloration in the first place.
External Tooth Stains
These are the most common causes for tooth discoloration and yellow teeth:
- Coffee stains
- Tea stains
- Wine stains
- Smoking / Tobacco use
Coffee, tea, and wine are high in chromagens, which stick to teeth and produce noticeable stains. Nicotine becomes yellow when mixed with oxygen, and when inhaled or chewed can settle into small pores in the enamel of your teeth. Over time, smokers’ teeth can become extremely yellow or brown.
Often for patients, reducing or eliminating use of any of these substances is enough to brighten their teeth.
Additionally, as enamel erodes, more of the dentin beneath it becomes visible. Dentin has natural yellow coloration, so less layers of enamel can yellow your smile.
Internal Tooth Stains
Certain medications are able to change the appearance of your enamel, or the dentin beneath it. For example, use of tetracycline antibiotics while teeth are still forming can cause tooth discoloration. Injury or trauma to a tooth causing internal bleeding within the tooth can leave a permanent stain as well.
When brushing isn’t enough
Before wondering why brushing isn’t whitening your teeth, make sure that you have proper brushing technique! Brushing too harshly has the potential to erode away your enamel, revealing more of the colored dentin beneath.
Next, consider whether or not your teeth are naturally a more yellow color than you would prefer. Take a look at color samples during your next dentist visit to get an idea of the range of natural tooth colors:
From the Dentist
Much like eye and skin color, our teeth come in many different shades. If you get regular dental cleanings, brush twice a day, floss, and avoid tobacco and coffee, it is very likely your natural shade is simply less than perfectly white — just like most of humanity!
If this sounds like you, a whitening procedure may be the answer. Make sure to talk it over with your dentist before making a decision on whitening products.