Yellow Teeth, Fluoridated Water and Living in Adelaide, Australia
Understanding the most common cause of yellow teeth and what can be done about it, begins with water.
In Adelaide, water fluoridation started in 1971 and is governed by the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
You may be wondering what water fluoridation has to do with yellow teeth…
For many Australian’s yellow teeth are the result of dental plaque, and it turns out that fluoride kills the bacteria that thrive in dental plaque and cause tooth decay.
While dental plaque may be a common explanation for having yellow teeth it isn’t the only cause. Extrinsic stains, Intrinsic stains, Dentinogenesis Imperfecta and Amelogenesis Imperfecta as well as other genetic disorders, age, illness or injury cause teeth to discolour.
The cause and type of teeth yellowing determines whether the discolouration is permanent or its effects can be reversed.
Yellow External Staining on the Tooth Surface
External stains on your teeth are called Extrinsic Stains. These stains appear on the outer surface of the teeth and are created by things you consume – what you eat, drink or inhale.
Extrinsic stains that affect the surface of the tooth can be removed or corrected.
Yellow Stains on the Inner Structure of Teeth
Internal teeth stains are call Intrinsic Discolouration or Intrinsic Stains. They are stains and colour changes that happen deep within the structure of your teeth.
Intrinsic stains, because they occur within the tooth’s structure, are difficult to remove.
More Reasons for Teeth Becoming Yellow
Age, injuries, trauma, medications, disease and genetics can all be causes for teeth discolouring and becoming yellow in colour.
Yellow teeth caused by genetics, age, illness or injury are permanent and need professional dental attention to address.
To explain – with age the white enamel surface of your teeth wears and becomes thinner. This means that the natural yellow colour of the dentin of your inner tooth structure shows through more easily.
It’s not a matter of reversing or whitening your teeth in this situation, because the yellowing is what your teeth are.
When it comes to genetics, there are two inheritable disorders that cause teeth to develop improperly that can be associated with discolouration. Dentinogenesis Imperfecta and Amelogenesis Imperfecta.
- Dentinogenesis Imperfecta is a genetic disorder that effects tooth development. Type I Dentinogenesis Imperfecta occurs in individuals who also inherit Osteogenesis Imperfecta which is a bone disorder.
- Amelogenesis Imperfecta is a genetic disorder in tooth development that causes teeth to be smaller than usual that are pitted, grooved and discoloured.
Apart from these serious, yet rare genetic disorders, some people are born with great genetics having thicker white enamel and blessed with very white natural teeth. Other people are simply born with teeth that appear more yellow in colour.
The fact is that the strongest teeth are natural, healthy ones – which can be all sorts of different shade of off-white or even appear slightly grey, blue or yellow.
All this means that the colour of your teeth just isn’t used as a way to judge if they are healthy or not.
In fact, it is possible to have ultra pearly white teeth and still have gum disease, infections or cavities. Which is also one of the main reasons why your dentist recommends regular check-ups.
If you could just look at the colour of your teeth and know if they were in good order or not, life would be a lot easier!
Common Causes for Yellow Teeth
At different stages of life there are different conditions and risks that can cause teeth to become yellow.
|Stage||Most Common Cause for Yellow Teeth|
|Birth||Congenital disorders, such as enamel hypoplasia, dentin defects and some metabolic disorders cause yellow teeth.|
|Baby||Taking antibiotics containing tetracycline during pregnancy or breast-feeding can cause yellow teeth in babies. Another possibility is Hyperbilirubinemia – which is when too much bilirubin is in the baby’s blood.|
|Infant||Infant medications containing iron can cause yellow teeth staining. Inherited genetic conditions that affect tooth enamel can also be the cause of yellow teeth in infants.|
|Toddlers||Medications and some health conditions can be causes for yellow teeth in toddlers. Health conditions such as recurring infections, jaundice and serious illnesses like heart disease and liver disease, while rare, can cause yellow teeth in toddlers.|
|Child||If baby teeth decay to the point of exposing the pulp, then bacteria infections can disturb the development of enamel for the permanent teeth resulting in yellow teeth.|
|Kids||Plaque that builds up from poor brushing makes kids teeth look yellow. Where just one or two teeth are yellow, this may be caused by an injury to the nerve attached to the teeth.|
|Puberty||Eating and drinking things with deep staining highly pigmented ingredients causes yellow teeth in children especially when brushing and flossing habits or techniques are poor.|
|Teenager||Lifestyle changes particularly with food and drink choices compounded with poor dental hygiene cause plaque to build up on the teeth as a yellow staining.|
|Pregnancy||Mouthwash that contains chlorhexidine, iron supplements and antibiotics with tetracycline have all been identified as possible causes for yellow teeth in some pregnant women.|
|Adults||After plaque build-up that causes decay, aging is the most common cause of yellow teeth in adults.|
Even from this list, you can see that there are quite a few things that can cause teeth to become yellow. Some that you can do something about, others that will be out of your control and your dentist may have solutions for.
Let’s start with the ones you have some control over.
Foods That Discolour Your Teeth Yellow
Darkly coloured foods with deep staining pigments, rich in carotenoids or xanthonoids, including tomato, curry, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, berries, cherries, beetroot, pomegranate, red grapes, will stain your teeth.
For the same reasons, chewing gutka, mawa, kharra, paan, pan masala or betel nut will stain your teeth yellow.
An Answer to Turmeric as a Cause of Yellow Teeth
With the rise in popularity of turmeric lattes and it being used in curry, there has been a lot of discussion online about whether turmeric stains your teeth yellow or not.
It turns out that turmeric doesn’t stain your teeth; however it has been found that it does stain composite white fillings, temporary dental crowns and other composite dental appliances.
Coffee, tea and green tea are other beverages that are commonly associated with yellowing teeth.
The dark pigments in coffee can become embedded in the microscopic pits and ridges of your tooth enamel making your teeth look yellow.
While in tea, it’s the tannins that stain, to produce yellow looking teeth… and because green tea is particularly high in tannins it can make staining appear more quickly.
Tannins are also the reason why red wine is so good at staining teeth and making them look yellow.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices – Unexpected Risks of Yellow Teeth
Even if you make really healthy choices, there are still unexpected sources for yellowing, stains and discolouration of teeth. For example, consumption of acai has been linked to some staining on teeth.
Keto Dieting and Your Teeth
Protein shakes that sometimes accompany keto diets can increase plaque build up to make teeth feel fuzzy and look yellow.
Questions have also been asked about whether being gluten intolerant can cause yellow teeth.
There is no current evidence that this condition causes yellow teeth, however an increase in decay and wearing of teeth in individuals with gluten intolerance is common.
Yellow Teeth from Vegan / Vegetarian Diets
You may think that a vegan diet would automatically guarantee natural white teeth. However, plaque and calculus form more readily on teeth from a diet high in fruits.
Citrus fruits, in particular, are highly acidic and known to erode tooth enamel. Making the white enamel thinner so that the natural yellow colour of the tooth dentin is more visible.
The regular grazing and snacking that is often a part of a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle can also mean that without an increase in attention to dental hygiene, yellowing teeth occurs.
While many know the perils of smoking and how the sticky brown cigarette tar (which is the toxic chemical particles created by burning tobacco) attaches to the surface of teeth to make them look yellow.
What You Vape Determines Whether You Get Yellow Teeth
Few realize that “the healthy” alternative of vaping doesn’t solve the problem of discolouration to your teeth.
Vaping any substance that creates tar, when it burns, including nicotine, will make your teeth look yellow.
Diseases and Illness that Cause Yellow Teeth
There are very few diseases or illness that cause yellow teeth here in Australia in adults. Mainly due to our high standard of living, access to healthcare services through Medicare and high standards of preventative dentistry practiced in Adelaide and Australia.
Vomit, Stomach Acids and Yellow Teeth
Sadly for anyone who suffers from Morning Sickness during pregnancy, has regular reflux or an eating disorder (in particular Bulimia).
They are at serious risk of getting yellow teeth due to the stomach acids contained in vomit. It erodes tooth enamel making it thinner, so that the yellow dentin of teeth becomes more visible.
Jaundice and Getting Yellow Teeth
More serious is Jaundice in infants. Jaundice is a condition that can cause yellow or green discolouration of teeth due to an alteration of the dentin as teeth are forming.
Damaged Tooth Enamel and Celiac Disease
Celiac disease at an early age can also result in defects in tooth enamel that cause the teeth to look yellow. Damage to dentition will also cause discolouration of the teeth that is not reversible.
The Connection Between Thyroid Condition and Yellow Teeth
Having a thyroid condition may also cause yellow teeth in some cases. Hyperthyroidism creates a susceptibility to infection and delayed wound healing and requires proper dental care to prevent periodontitis – gum disease and the destruction of tissue and bone.
Lupus, Dry Mouth and Yellow Teeth
Despite popular opinion, yellow teeth are not a symptom of Lupus. Though the dry mouth from reduced production of saliva caused by Lupus does mean that teeth become more susceptible to decay. In the case where poor oral hygiene is also present, stains are more likely to appear brown rather than yellow.
Importance of Oral Care to Prevent Yellow Teeth for Diabetics
For diabetics, periodontal disease is a common dental risk caused by challenges with blood sugar control. Excessive build up of plaque from poor oral care could give teeth a yellowish tinge.
Kidney Disease with Periodontal Disease
Individuals with kidney disease are more susceptible to periodontal disease and yellowing can occur if excessive plaque is allowed to build up. But having kidney disease does not itself cause yellow teeth.
Poor Oral Hygiene and Liver Disease
Liver disease is another condition that does not cause yellow teeth. There is research to suggest that periodontitis may be a risk factor for the progression of liver disease though. So it’s important to tell your dentist and to keep on top of your oral health.
HIV and Yellow Teeth
Supplements, Vitamin Deficiencies and Yellow Teeth
At the time of writing, in Australia, there are no known vitamin deficiencies that cause yellow teeth.
Extreme Vitamin D Deficiency and Yellow Teeth
In countries where severe malnutrition is common, extreme Vitamin D deficiency can cause yellow teeth in permanent teeth, as well as periodontal disease.
There is also a link between being deficient in Vitamin B6 and periodontal disease occurrence. Where the periodontal disease causes yellow teeth because dental hygiene is poor.
Iron Supplements and Teeth Staining
Even having an iron deficiency will not create yellow teeth. Though taking an iron supplement when you have a deficiency may cause teeth staining.
We know that citrus fruits are damaging because of the ascorbic acid – which is essentially Vitamin C. Interestingly, there is very little conclusive evidence connecting Vitamin C supplements to discolouring teeth.
Fluoride, Discolouring and Teeth Stains
On the other hand, when you take too much Fluoride, it can discolour your teeth.
Fluorosis is a condition caused by having too much fluoride and usually shows up as white spots, streaks and cloudy patches on your teeth. In extreme cases it may appear as brown stains.
Busting Myths About Yellow Teeth and Calcium Deficiency
There is a common myth that you can get yellow teeth because of a lack of calcium.
The truth is that teeth have a different structure to bone and there’s only a minimal amount of calcium present in the teeth.
While calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus are important in the formation of teeth when young.
Calcium is most important for the health and strength of jawbones and helping to maintain the mineral composition of teeth.
Yellow Teeth from Medicines, Drugs and Pharmaceutical Side-Effects
Antibiotics That Discolour Your Teeth
They are Tetracycline antibiotics including doxycycline and minocycline, as well as Beta-lactam/penicillin antibiotics which includes amoxicillin and phenoxymethylpenicillin.
Teeth yellow from antibiotics depends on dosage used, length of treatment, age of patient, the stage of tooth mineralization and how active the mineralization process is.
The Rare Case of Antihistamines and Yellow Teeth
Antihistamines such as those in Zyrtec and decongestants like Benadryl have been found to cause discolouration and yellow teeth in a few cases.
The sticky residue, left behind on teeth, from chewable antacids and Aspirin have also been linked to stains from plaque buildup and enamel damage.
The ADHA medication Vyvanse can have a side effect of dry mouth. Dry mouth can increase susceptibility to periodontal disease and yellowing of teeth, particularly if excessive plaque is allowed to build up.
While antidepressants commonly have negative side effects for oral health, especially tooth decay. At the time of writing there is no research or information connecting Zoloft or Prozac to yellowing teeth.
Some blood pressure medications have been linked to increased risks of tooth decay and teeth staining, so it makes sense to consult your doctor and dentist if you have concerns.
Recreational and Illicit Drugs Destroying Your Teeth
When it comes to recreational and illicit drug use, teeth tend to be a lot more vulnerable.
Cocaine is extremely acidic when mixed with saliva and erodes tooth enamel rapidly to expose the underlying dentine making teeth look yellow.
Methamphetamine is another extremely acidic drug that attacks tooth enamel to yellow teeth.
Drugs that reduce saliva production, including cannabis, ecstasy and heroin make teeth more vulnerable to decay and periodontal disease.
Identifying Yellow Teeth Stains and Discolourations
Sometimes when other blemishes appear on your teeth, because of the contrast, they can make the natural colour of your teeth appear more yellow.
Yellow teeth with white spots
The most likely cause of white spots on yellow teeth is dental fluorosis.
Yellow teeth with white lines
The most likely cause of white lines on yellow teeth is dental fluorosis.
Yellow teeth with white tongue
The most likely cause of a white tongue with yellow teeth is poor oral hygiene.
Yellow teeth with brown spots
The most likely cause of brown spots on yellow teeth is a build up of tartar.
Single yellow tooth
The most likely cause for a single yellow tooth would be a condition called pulp canal obliteration. It typically occurs in response to dental trauma and has yellow discolouration as a symptom.
Yellow patch on neighbouring teeth
The most likely cause of a spreading patch of yellow on teeth next to each other is tobacco or vaping stains.
All over yellow teeth
The most likely cause of yellow teeth in adults is aging enamel that is thinning, making the inner yellow dentin of the teeth more obvious.
Treating, Reversing and Cleaning Yellow Teeth
The first thing you need to do is visit your dentist to find out the cause of your yellow teeth. The cause of yellow teeth determines the treatment options you have.
If teeth are yellow because of surface stains or plaque, then with cleaning can they be reversed back to their natural white colour.
Removing the plaque can be done with regular brushing and flossing teeth, and by visiting your dentist to have them professionally cleaned.
When cleaning away the yellow colour of teeth is done with whitening. It’s usually done –
- with abrasion, or
- combined – chemically and with abrasion.
Home remedies for teeth whitening that use things like Hydrogen Peroxide, chemically whiten your teeth and Baking Soda or Salt are added for abrasion to scrub stains off the surface.
The results of whitening vary and so do the impacts to the long-term health of your teeth. Doing teeth whitening under guidance of your dentist is recommended always.
The main difference between home and dental remedies for yellow teeth is that a dentist will ensure the least amount of long-term damage to your teeth and get you the outcome you want relatively quickly without risk to your teeth, gums and oral health during treatment.
It is not possible to reverse yellow teeth with whitening in all situations. Which is why many dentists are advocates for prevention.
Advocating for good oral hygiene, great technique for brushing and flossing together with regular check-ups. All to avoid unnecessary early on set of yellowing teeth.
When it comes down to it, the colour of your teeth is a very personal matter. The colour that is right for you, whether that’s pale yellow, off-white or something much brighter, is something that you can decide and achieve with the help of a dentist.Leave a reply →