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Yellow Teeth: The Causes and Remedies

Haleigh Pouliot Kandice Swarthout

Written by Haleigh Pouliot

Medically reviewed by Kandice Swarthout

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Nothing sends an image of health, youth, and beauty like a sparkling set of pearly-white teeth.

So if your teeth are looking a bit dingy and yellow, then you might understandably be embarrassed to show your smile.

Indeed, yellow teeth are not very attractive to look at.

Happily, there are dozens of solutions for brightening yellow teeth and at least one of them is bound to work for you.

To choose the perfect teeth whitening method, however, you first need to identify the cause of your yellow teeth.

Why Are My Teeth Yellow?

Your teeth could be yellow for any number of reasons. Dark color may be natural or the result of exposure to things that cause dental stains. Teeth can darken from the inside out, and become discolored from external agents.

Your teeth might look yellow because of:

These are very broad categories. However, read on to discover what specifically can yellow teeth.

What Causes Yellow Teeth?

The color of your teeth is influenced by lifestyle choices. Yellow teeth are often caused by pigments in foods and substances.

For example, there are many foods that can gradually turn your teeth yellow over time.

Staining foods include:

Tobacco use is also a major contributor to yellow teeth. Many years of tobacco use can turn your teeth yellow. Both chewing tobacco and cigarettes can stain teeth because they contain tar. 

Another lifestyle factor that contributes to yellow teeth is oral hygiene. If you do not brush and floss daily, the bacterial plaque that grows on teeth all day long can stain and dissolve your tooth enamel. Eventually, poor oral hygiene could even lead to tooth decay which leaves ugly cavities that stain your teeth.

Fortunately, you have control over the lifestyle factors that cause yellow teeth. These factors cause extrinsic, or surface, stains.

Avoiding tobacco, limiting the consumption of staining foods, and practicing proper oral hygiene can greatly reduce the risk of a yellow smile.

yellow teeth caused by tobacco
avoid yellow teeth with oral hygiene

Extrinsic stain can become embedded in teeth after many years of exposure. This can cause stubborn yellow teeth that will not whiten with brushing alone.

What if you don’t think that your teeth have been discolored by any of those lifestyle factors?

Your yellow teeth could naturally be that way. Your teeth may be naturally yellow.

Are Teeth Naturally Yellow?

Yes, teeth can really be yellow by nature.

Teeth are made up of two main layers: the enamel and the dentin. Enamel is a semi-translucent and very hard substance on the outside of your teeth. Dentin is the alive and sensitive inner part of your tooth. Because dentin has a yellow or grey hue, it’s what gives your teeth their natural color.

The yellow color of dentin is toned down and brightened by the enamel layer over it. But if the dentin has a deeper hue like gray or dark yellow, enamel won’t mask it very well and the teeth can appear yellow. People with lighter-colored dentin will have whiter teeth. Dentin color is just another unique genetic variable like skin color or hair color.

So yes, it's perfectly normal for some people to have teeth that are naturally yellow but clean and healthy.

Age also plays a factor in tooth color. If you have kids, you may have noticed that their adult teeth look quite yellow as they come in next to baby teeth. This isn’t because they’re dirty or rotten; it’s because dentin in baby teeth is naturally lighter in color. Baby tooth enamel tends to be more opaque.

Let’s fast forward several more years.

Older adults tend to have the yellowest teeth.

Why is that?

In addition to accumulating years of stain, teeth of older adults experience other things that make them look yellower:

Are Yellow Teeth Bad?

As discussed above, yellow teeth can be a perfectly natural feature of your smile.

If your teeth have yellowed due to something harmful like enamel wear, decay, or gum recession, you’ll need to see a dentist for treatment.

What if you simply don’t like the way your yellow teeth look?

You don’t have to live with a stained smile forever! There are plenty of ways you can whiten your teeth and increase confidence.

How to Get Rid of Yellow Teeth

Yellow teeth can be treated in a variety of ways, depending on the cause of the discoloration.

Surface stains, which are those that can be scrubbed out and that haven’t soaked into the tooth, can be buffed away. You can get rid of stains caused by things like food and tobacco use by trying a whitening toothpaste that contains abrasive grit. For those tough stains and stubborn yellow teeth, consider getting a professional dental cleaning.

Yellow stain that’s soaked deep into your teeth or that’s a part of your natural tooth color won’t quickly respond to most whitening toothpastes. That kind of stain requires something stronger: like bleaching.

yellow teeth whitening toothpaste
whitening kits for yellow teeth

Teeth bleaching is usually done with carbamide peroxide which causes a chemical reaction called oxidation. This process actually releases pigments from deep within your teeth. Whether at home or in a dental office, bleaching remains the most effective procedure for a whiter smile. 

Ready to try teeth bleaching? Check this list of our top teeth whitening kits.

You may have to bleach your teeth multiple times over the course of several weeks to achieve the shade you love.

As a last resort, very yellow teeth that don’t respond to any bleaching efforts can always be enhanced with dental veneers or crowns.

How To Make Yellow Teeth Naturally White?

Is there any way to polish teeth for a glam smile without investing in bleaching kits?

Well, yes, there are some alternative methods (like DIY teeth whitening). Consider yourself warned that none of the alternative methods are truly as safe and effective as bleaching with real whitening kits.

natural remedies for yellow teeth

Some so-called natural tooth whiteners include things like apple cider vinegar, lemons, and strawberries. These are all acidic agents and won’t actually bleach your teeth. At best, the acid will help etch the outer layer of your tooth enamel, which may play a role in loosening stains. But this is actually very harmful to your enamel since it doesn’t grow back.

Rinsing with or soaking your teeth in acidic ingredients can weaken your enamel and put it at risk for sensitivity, cavities, and even absorbing more stain.

toothpaste for yellow teeth

Other natural teeth whitening remedies for yellow teeth include abrasives like charcoal teeth whitening powder and baking soda. Mixing these powders into a paste with a little water before brushing them onto your teeth for several minutes will help scrub out stain. These substances can also be damaging to enamel if they’re used long-term. If you only use them occasionally to buff out superficial food stains, they can be a great natural way to prevent yellow teeth.

Other natural teeth whitening remedies for yellow teeth include abrasives like charcoal teeth whitening powder and baking soda. Mixing these powders into a paste with a little water before brushing them onto your teeth for several minutes will help scrub out stain.

These substances can also be damaging to enamel if they’re used long-term. If you only use them occasionally to buff out superficial food stains, they can be a great natural way to prevent yellow teeth.

Yellow Teeth: The Takeaway

Having yellow teeth can be natural or the result of years of wear-and-tear and staining. Whatever the cause, there’s a solution for whitening teeth that will work for you. So don’t give up! A brighter and more beautiful smile is possible!


Does Coffee Make Your Teeth Yellow?

Yes, coffee does contain dark-colored pigments that can discolor your teeth. Over time, the stains can absorb into your teeth and turn them yellow.

Is It Normal To Have Yellow Teeth?

Having yellow teeth can be perfectly normal, as long as they are healthy. If your yellow teeth make you feel self-conscious, you can get them whitened. If you suspect the discoloration is due to a dental health issue, then you should see your dentist.

Are Yellow Teeth Permanent?

No, you don’t have to live with yellow teeth forever! There are dozens of teeth whitening treatments to choose from to get a brighter smile.

Why Are My Teeth Yellow When I Brush Them Everyday?

Yellow teeth can still happen in spite of excellent oral hygiene. Your teeth may naturally be yellow or they could have deep internal staining that doesn’t go away with regular daily brushing.

Does Vaping Make Your Teeth Yellow?

Vaping won’t stain your teeth because it doesn’t contain tar as tobacco products do. However, it can still potentially contribute to other oral health problems such as bad breath, dry mouth, cavities, and gum disease.

Do Whitening Strips Work On Yellow Teeth?

Over-the-counter whitening strips can be very effective on slightly yellowed teeth. They do have some limitations, however. If you find that whitening strips aren’t getting you the results you’d like after several weeks, then you might need to try a stronger bleaching treatment.


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