Causes of Yellow or Discolored Teeth

Tooth discoloration is divided into two general categories:
  1. Staining of the outer layer of the tooth (the enamel), and
  2. Color changes within the deeper structure of the teeth

This in an important distinction, because it will impact the type of treatment your teeth require, the costs involved, and the care you continue to give your teeth long after any procedures you undergo.

Outer layer

The tooth enamel is most commonly discolored by lifestyle factors:

Foods and drinks: Beverages such as coffee, tea, sodas, red wine, and grape juice. Foods such as blueberries, soy sauce, dark-colored vinegars, beets, and sauces made with tomatoes or curry.

Tobacco use: This includes not only cigarette smoking but also dipping, chewing and cigar smoking.

Poor dental hygiene: If you brush less than twice a day and floss less than once a week, you are practicing suboptimal care of your teeth, thus allowing plaque to form and stains to become ingrained in the outer layer of the teeth.

Inner structure


  • antibiotics such as tetracycline, minocycline, and doxycycline
  • antihistamines (such as Benadryl)
  • certain blood pressure medicines

Excessive fluoride intake: Too much fluoride can result in a condition known as fluorosis. This usually happens during chilhood, when the teeth are still developing.

Damage: Root and inner-structure damage can give the teeth a bruised appearance.

Getting older: Like the rest of our body, our teeth lose their resilience as we age. Both the enamel and the dentin (the area between the outer and inner layers) degrade and begin to discolor.

Genetics: It is possible to inherit certain dental characteristics, including ones susceptible to discoloration.


How to Whiten Your Teeth

Several options exist that can help return your teeth to a more natual shade:

  • At-home products
    • Gels
    • Strips
    • Toothpastes
    • Baking soda
    • More
  • Dentist-prescribed gels
  • Professional, in-office procedures

Take an in-depth look at the various methods available for teeth whitening. Please note that the American Dental Association recommends seeing a dental specialist before you endeavor on any type of whitening.

Find a dentist in your area.

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