Why Do Teeth Turn Yellow?

Discoloured teeth can significantly affect our daily life, impacting confidence levels and even the way we interact with others. Luckily today, dental technology means we have a range of teeth whitening options that really do work. But have you ever wondered why teeth turn yellow in the first place?

Understanding what causes teeth to turn yellow can empower us to be proactive and protect our smiles. Adapting lifestyle choices to avoid discolouration in the first place can reduce the need for teeth whitening treatments to reverse the staining. However, there are also influences linked to yellowing teeth that are beyond our control.

In this guide, we’ll explore some of the main reasons teeth can turn yellow – and how you can protect yours!

Why Teeth Turn Yellow

Time is the main reason teeth turn yellow. Over time, our teeth naturally undergo changes that can lead to yellowing. How quickly this process happens is influenced by a combination of factors – including ageing, wear and tear, and the gradual build-up of staining substances. While some discoloration is unavoidable due to the passage of time, there are some ways to minimise its impact.


Dietary choices can directly influence how quickly teeth will stain. Certain foods and drinks contain chemical compounds called chromogens. These are highly pigmented compounds that can attach themselves to tooth enamel, causing surface stains as they accumulate over time.

You may think your oral hygiene routine will be enough to solve this, removing stains and therefore minimising the chance that yellowing will occur. While regular brushing and flossing can remove surface stains, our teeth are not perfectly smooth surfaces. With plenty of microscopic crevices to rest in, these staining pigments can easily build up and have a visible impact.


Natural variations in genetics influence the way our teeth develop, regulating the formation and mineralisation of enamel. Some people are genetically predisposed to having thinner enamel. This means the dentin layer within our teeth, which has a more yellow hue than enamel, is more visible when we smile.

Environmental factors, such as nutrition, fluoride exposure, and oral hygiene practices, also play significant roles in the development of enamel. These genetic and environmental factors interact to shape the final characteristics of an individual’s teeth, including the quality of enamel and susceptibility to discoloration.

Medical Condition and Injuries

Certain health issues and injuries can lead to intrinsic discolouration, which is where the discolouration stems from deeper layers within the tooth rather than the surface enamel.

  • Trauma or Injury

Teeth that have been previously injured may have a blue or greyish tint, as some injuries can go deep enough to cause bleeding within the tooth. This happens within the pulp, the innermost layer of teeth that houses its blood vessels and nerves. The blood can then start to filter through to the dentin layer, which is why these types of intrinsic ‘stains’ are impossible to remove from the outer surface.

  • Use of Antibiotics in Childhood

Some antibiotics can cause intrinsic staining if they are taken when teeth are developing in childhood. Tetracycline and doxycycline can bind to calcium ions as teeth are developing, resulting in permanent staining patterns that are embedded within the tooth. Doctors will always consider whether the cost outweighs the benefits before prescribing medications, so they will only prescribe these particular antibiotics during childhood if necessary.

  • Fluorosis

Fluorosis leads to white spots or streaks of discolouration on the teeth and is caused when the body absorbs too much fluoride during childhood. This can happen for several reasons, from too much fluoride in the water, to eating too much seafood or drinking excessive amounts of tea. Younger children may accidentally swallow their fluoridated toothpaste, meaning the body goes on to absorb the excess.

  • Poor Oral Hygiene

Without following recommended oral hygiene practices, teeth can begin to accumulate staining pigments faster. A lack of oral hygiene can also mean plaque will harden into tartar, which can have further complications such as gum disease and tooth decay.

Smoking is one of the leading causes that contributes to the yellowing of teeth, as nicotine products are notorious for staining. Smoking can also reduce oral hygiene as it can severely impact oral health, leading to increased plaque and a much higher risk of dental issues like gum disease.

How Can You Avoid Yellow Teeth?

While you may not be able to avoid the gradual yellowing process altogether, you can slow it down. Switching up your lifestyle habits can help. Avoid smoking and eating and drinking foods and drinks that stain. These include pigmented products such as red wine, coffee, certain spices, red berries, soy sauce and vinegar.

Brush After Eating

Alongside maintaining regular oral hygiene habits, brushing your teeth within 30 minutes of consuming pigmented foods or drinks can help reduce the build-up of surface stains. Consider taking a travel toothbrush and toothpaste out with you if possible. If you can’t brush, even rinsing your mouth with water afterwards is better than nothing. As always, avoid brushing too hard or rigorously. This can lead to the breakdown of enamel, resulting in yellow-looking teeth which is exactly what you are trying to avoid!

Whitening Toothpaste

Whitening toothpastes can help remove surface stains, as they often contain tried and tested ingredients such as abrasives or whitening agents. Maintaining oral hygiene does have a limited effect, however, as the natural microscopic ridges on the surface of teeth mean stains can eventually accumulate without professional treatment.

Teeth Whitening

If you don’t feel like whitening toothpastes and preventative measures can help you reach your smile goals, it might be worth considering professional teeth whitening treatments. Alongside attending regular dental cleaning appointments, teeth whitening treatments can have a transformative impact that boosts how healthy your smile looks and feels.

Achieve a Brighter Smile with Ringway Dental

At Ringway Dental, our teeth whitening services can help restore a bright, natural sparkle to your smile. Our dedicated team of experienced dental professionals are well-equipped to guide you through the process, and we always do our best to help you choose the most suitable treatment. If you have deeper intrinsic discolouration, composite bonding or veneers may work best to remove staining.

Call us on 0161 437 2029 to book an appointment with us. At a variety of accessible price points, and with professional at-home and in-surgery teeth whitening options, we make boosting your confidence with a radiant smile easy!

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Visit us

  • 187 Finney Lane
  • Heald Green
  • Cheadle
  • Greater
  • Manchester
  • SK8 3PX

Visit us

  • 187 Finney Lane
  • |
  • Heald Green
  • |
  • Cheadle
  • |
  • Greater Manchester
  • |
  • SK8 3PX
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