Who wouldn’t like to flaunt their teeth if they were pearly white? If you’re one of those who’s reminded of the ‘not-so-white’ teeth every time someone makes you laugh, it’s time you gave it a little more thought and figured out what’s causing the yellowing in the first place!
If most of your family members have yellow teeth, it’s highly likely it is genetic. But what you should know is that it isn’t the colour which is genetically transmitted but the thickness of the outermost layer of the teeth. The thinner the enamel layer is, the more visible the yellow dentin layer will be.
Aging is a natural process and so is yellowing of teeth with age. With advancing age, the outer layer of enamel wears away and becomes thinner. This causes the dentin’s yellow colour to show through and give your teeth a yellowish appearance.
If you were given antibiotics tetracycline or doxycycline before the age of eight, chances are that your permanent teeth have striated or banded stains on them. And also, these antibiotics when given to a pregnant woman will cause yellow staining of her child’s teeth. This happens because the teeth are still developing before the age of eight and these antibiotics become incorporated into the mineral structure of the enamel causing the stains.
Other medicines which cause teeth discoloration are chlorhexidine (found in mouth rinses), antihistamines, anti-hypertensives and antipsychotic drugs.
Excessive fluoride intake can occur due to high fluoride levels in water, a child swallowing excessive fluoride toothpaste or fluoride supplements taken by mouth. This can cause yellowish stains on the teeth.
Foods and drinks
Various foods and drinks are known to cause teeth discolouration. Foods like blueberries, cherries and drinks like coffee, tea, colas and wines are the obvious ones. Did you know that even apples and potatoes, the not so obvious ones, can cause teeth yellowing? The colouring molecules in these foods and drinks adhere to the enamel or penetrate the tubules of enamel to cause discoloration.
We all know that tobacco is hazardous to health. Well, it can be distressing to your smile too. Smoking or chewing tobacco can leave extrinsic stains on the enamel of the teeth. Tobacco contains many hard-to-remove staining elements that cause a gradual yellowing of teeth and mar the appearance of your teeth.
Poor oral hygiene
Good oral hygiene is essential for your oral health and to maintain the colour of your teeth. Inadequate brushing and flossing allow stains from coffee, tobacco, etc. to develop and calculus (tartar) to build up on teeth. This will make your teeth appear yellow.
Dental restorative materials like amalgam (silver fillings) can leach out over time and get deposited in the enamel and cast a dark colour to teeth.
Certain diseases and infections in pregnant mothers can affect the development of enamel and the underlying dentin causing tooth discoloration later in the child. Sometimes, treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation to the head and neck for cancers can also change the colour of teeth to a yellow shade.
Trauma and discolouration – wondering what the connection is? When your tooth is injured due to trauma from sudden fall or accidents there may be bleeding in the innermost layer of the tooth (pulp chamber). Blood clot and remnants of decomposed pulp tissue may also get into the tubules of the dentin thereby staining the dentin and causing tooth discolouration. In young children, the teeth are still developing. Trauma in such children can also disturb enamel formation and cause discoloration of their permanent teeth.