04.08.20

Not-so-Mellow Yellow? Why Our Teeth Turn Yellow and What You Can Do About It

woman covering her mouth with her hands which has a mouth with a yellow teeth painted on it

One more worry to add to the list of annoyances about growing older? Yellow teeth. It’s a sad fact that as we age, most of us notice that our once-pearly whites have become a far-less-enticing shade somewhere between banana and straight-up butterscotch on the yellow scale. Unfortunately, yellowing teeth with age is one of those unavoidable factors, but there are a lot of sneaky culprits of yellowing teeth that you can do something about. So, let’s talk about it! First, let’s get some of those annoying unavoidable causes out of the way:

 

Genetics

Unfortunately, the thickness or thinness of our enamel has a strong genetic component. If your parents had thin enamel, there’s a good shot you will as well. In rare cases, mutated genes or disorders such as Dentinogenesis Imperfecta can also result in discoloration of teeth.

 

Illness

During development, yellowing teeth can be the result of infection and fever, or even rare conditions such as neonatal jaundice. At any age, yellowing teeth can result from injury or infection. It can also result from radiation and chemotherapy, as well as certain medications for antihistamines, antibiotics, antipsychotics and medications used to treat conditions such as asthma, acne and high blood pressure. Certain medical conditions that impact the enamel can also cause yellow teeth such as oral cancer, bulimia, anemia, anorexia, AIDS, diabetes, and leukemia.

 

Age

Why do teeth yellow as we age? For starters, permanent teeth actually contain more of the yellow dentin layer than baby teeth, meaning adult teeth are naturally darker from the get-go. The dentin layer also gets darker during our lifetime, decreasing the size of the pulp and subsequently the translucency of the tooth. As you continue to age, your enamel wears. Since enamel does not regenerate, that means it progressively thins throughout a person’s life, contributing to making the dentin layer underneath more visible.

Never fear though! if you’re worried that your glory days have, well, passed you by, there are some factors that you can avoid that’ll make that bright white smile last just a little bit longer:

 

Some Food and Drinks

You know the culprits. The coffees and teas that we all love. The red wine. The chocolate. Basically, if it can stain your cutting board or your favorite shirt, it can definitely stain your teeth. Many of these foods contain the compounds tannins or chromogens that like to stick to tooth enamel. Another food culprit? Acid. It wears down enamel making it easier for those tricky little chromogens and tannins to stain the enamel. Can’t get through the day without your afternoon tea? Try adding milk. Milk binds to tannins reducing the chance of stains. Heck, might be the time to even try some white Russians. The Dude would be proud.

 

Improper Dental Hygiene

woman brushing her teeth with a Radius toothbrush

If you are negligent in taking care of your teeth, plaque builds up over time leading to the appearance of darker teeth. By not brushing as recommended, you also will not be removing the daily stains. The longer those stains stay on your tooth, the more chance that they will settle in, and that’s definitely not the quarantine companion you want. Want to make sure you’re taking the best care of your teeth? Be sure to check out our RADIUS oral care products. You can ever get them on a subscription basis so you know when you should be refilling your supplies.

 

Bruxism (aka Teeth Grinding)

Simple as this: if you grind your teeth, you wear down your enamel. As we said before, when the enamel goes, the dentin shows. That is no bueno. So what are you to do? You’ve got a couple options. One is some good old-fashioned destressing. Want some tips? Try our ‘Betty White’ guide to de-stressing. Remember: getting your butt in a bubble bath isn’t just a luxury, right now it could be a downright lifesaver. The other option is to spring for a mouthguard. Either way, it’s better to build up your teeth’s defenses than grind them down, buttercup.

 

Certain Oral Care Products

Yes, we know, this one is a bit counter-intuitive, but certain mouthwashes, particularly prescription-strength ones, contain a compound called chlorhexidine, which can increase tartar build-up cause yellowing in your teeth. Another staining culprit? Fluoride. While fluoride can be good in small doses, excessive fluoride can lead to tooth discoloration. Want to be au natural? Luckily, RADIUS takes pride in its toothpaste containing zero traces of fluorides or other harmful chemicals. Read more about it here.

 

Drugs

If you’ve binged-watched Tiger King, you know about “Meth Mouth”, but other drugs beyond methamphetamines can cause yellowing such as cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and even marijuana. Why? Many of these drugs are linked to bruxism as well as dry mouth, which is linked to tooth decay. In the case of cocaine, it mixes with your saliva to create a nasty acidic substance that destroys enamel. Basically, follow the lesson you learned in grade school: Don’t Do Drugs. Sorry, Donovan. We’re not into the Mellow Yellow.

 

Smoking

Of course, nicotine is also a drug, but since many of you reading this are more likely to be smoking than shooting up heroin, we figured we’d give it its own special place. Not only do tar and nicotine cause yellow stains on your teeth, but nicotine also slows blood flow to your mouth, making infections slower to heal and allowing build up of harmful bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and yellowing. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Don’t smoke. It’s definitely the Highway to H*ll….as far as your health is concerned.

 

So that’s that. In spite of unavoidables, be comforted by the fact that you can take action to help prevent yellowing. And, hey! While we’re all trying to find out what to do with our time at home these days, why don’t you check out our step-by-step guide to safely and naturally whitening your teeth at home. And remember, even if your teeth aren’t perfect wedding dress white, what matters is that they’re healthy. When they’re healthy, you can smile like you mean it, and that’s what counts.