Why Are My Teeth Yellow When I Brush Them Every Day?

woman brushing teeth in front of a mirror

You watch your kids playing at the park, someone compliments your outfit, or you meet a stranger on a blind date — these are all moments that should cause you to smile, but you don’t. Your teeth are yellow, even though you brush them every day. Why are your teeth discolored, and what can you do to get a bright white smile you don’t hesitate to share with the world? More importantly, what can you do to get your confidence back?

What Causes Yellow Teeth?

Why do teeth turn yellow? Teeth can turn yellow for several reasons.

1. Poor Oral Hygiene

The first is poor oral hygiene (but if you’re brushing every day, this likely isn’t why your teeth are yellow). People with poor oral hygiene rarely brush, use mouthwash, and floss.

2. Consuming Certain Foods and Drinks

“Certain foods that are high in tannins, such as red wine, are potential causes of yellow teeth,” notes Crest. Other teeth-staining foods include coffee, citrus fruits and juices, soft drinks, teas, berries, tomato-based sauces, curry, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce. Ingredients in these foods can seep into your enamel (the outermost covering of your teeth) and cause discoloration.

3. Smoking or Using Tobacco Product

“One of the effects of smoking is staining of your teeth, reports Queen Victoria Hospital. “This is caused by the tar and nicotine in the cigarettes. Smoking can make your teeth yellow in a short period of time, and people who have smoked for many years often complain that their teeth are brown.”

“In Montana alone, there are more than 146,000 current smokers,” says Carrie Nyssen, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Montana. Are you one of them? If you brush every day but continue to smoke, tobacco could be why your teeth aren’t pearly white.

Looking at the bigger picture, though, yellow teeth are just one minor reason to consider quitting tobacco. About 90% of people who develop cancer of the mouth, tongue, lips, and throat use or have used tobacco products, reports the Hospital.

4. Medication

Did you recently start taking a new medication, or are you undergoing treatment for a major illness? Tooth discoloration is a side effect of some medications and treatments, including prescription medications for asthma and high blood pressure.

Certain drugs can discolor children’s teeth, especially. “The antibiotics tetracycline and doxycycline can affect enamel formation in children under the age of 8,” writes the Cleveland Clinic. “Mouth rinses and washes containing chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride can also stain teeth. Antihistamines (like Benadryl®), antipsychotic drugs, and antihypertensive medications also can cause teeth discoloration.”

If you brush your teeth every day but can’t seem to brush your way to a white smile, research any medication you are taking. Look for “tooth discoloration” in the list of side effects and talk to your doctor about alternatives.

Types of Tooth Stains

Tooth stains are either extrinsic or intrinsic.

Extrinsic Stains

Extrinsic stains are on the exterior of your teeth. They’re typically caused by using tobacco and eating or drinking certain foods.

You can help prevent extrinsic stains by maintaining good oral hygiene and limiting your consumption of teeth-staining foods. Teeth whitening treatments, like ZOOM or bleach trays, will often whiten a smile that’s been dulled by extrinsic staining.

Intrinsic Stains

Intrinsic stains happen within teeth and are harder to solve. These are often seen with teeth that are either necrotic (dying) or have had root canal therapy in the past. Intrinsic stains can also be caused by small cracks, which allow food, beverages, and tobacco to crawl inside the tooth and stain it from the inside-out. They can also be caused by antibiotics, bleeding within the tooth, tooth decay, too much fluoride, or genetics.

Traditional teeth whitening treatments can reduce some intrinsic staining, but the results may not last. Patients with intrinsic teeth stains can benefit the most from veneers. Dental veneers are wafer-thin, custom-made coverings that attach to the surface of your teeth. They cover up the stained tooth and can last between 10 and 15 years — much longer than any teeth whitening treatment!

Treating Yellow Teeth

If you brush every day but can’t seem to brush your way to a bright white smile, you might be wrestling with extrinsic or intrinsic teeth stains. These stains will be tough to get rid of on your own. Contact Ponderosa Dental Group in Missoula for help identifying what’s causing tooth discoloration in your life. We’ll talk to you about your diet, daily routine, and past medical history to get to the source.

(In the meantime, continue brushing, rinsing with a Dr. Dan-approved mouthwash, and flossing every day.)

Start by sending us photos of your teeth and tell Dr. Dan what you’re looking to change. We will send you a customized video where you can see Dr. Dan’s face and get to see him before coming into the office. It’s all free! Sign up for a virtual appointment today via the Smile Virtual app and let’s talk about transforming your smile with help from Missoula’s best dentist, Dr. Dan. We have a whitening solution to fit your needs and budget, whether your teeth are a tad yellow or just not quite bright enough.