Why Your Teeth Might Look Yellow, Even If You Brush Them


Sep. 14 2023, Updated 4:15 p.m. ET

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Your smile is an integral part of who you are and how you present yourself to the world, and you may have noticed your teeth aren't as white as they once were. It's especially confusing if you follow good oral hygiene habits (and use zero-waste toothbrushes) but still have yellow teeth.

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You may be asking yourself, why are my teeth yellow when I brush them every day? Unfortunately, simply brushing your teeth daily isn't enough to prevent them from losing their luster over time. Here are the main culprits for yellow teeth in spite of regular brushing.

side-by-side comparison of yellow and white teeth
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Why are my teeth yellow when I brush them every day?

The recommendation is to brush for two minutes twice a day, per Cleveland Clinic. But unfortunately, brushing alone won't keep your teeth nice and white. Some of the common reasons for yellow teeth include brushing too hard, using tobacco, genetics, and general aging, per Smile Generation — here's a closer look at these possible reasons.

Brushing too vigorously can lead to yellow teeth.

It may seem that if brushing is good, brushing vigorously is even better. But according to Smile Generation, if you brush too hard, you could be wearing away your enamel. This unfortunately brings out the yellow lower layers of dentin. So brush gently, and in particular, avoid a "rough side-to-side motion" when you brush.

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Smoking can cause yellow teeth.

Need another reason not to smoke? Smokers and other tobacco users are more likely to yellow their teeth. According to the Oral Health Foundation, smoking can stain teeth due to the nicotine and tar in tobacco. Stains are commonly yellow at first, but teeth can even turn brown after years of tobacco use.

iced blueberry cocktails with lime wedges
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Using straws can help protect your teeth from stain-causing beverages.

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Certain foods and drinks can stain teeth yellow.

If you love a glass of red wine or a cup of coffee, be aware that foods and drinks can cause discoloration of the teeth, per Colgate.com. Some of the worst offenders are pasta sauce, curry, balsamic vinegar, berries, and beverages like coffee and soda. Steps to combat this include using a straw (a reusable one, of course) for drinks that stain, and rinsing your mouth with water after certain foods.

Some medications may cause enamel damage and yellow teeth.

When wondering why your teeth are yellow even when you brush every day, you might not think of medications as the cause. But according to Silver Lake Dentistry, daily medications like beta blockers, antidepressants, and antihistamines can harm the inner enamel layer over time.

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Tooth injuries can lead to yellowed or discolored teeth.

People who chip or crack a tooth accidentally may see tooth discoloration as a result of dental trauma, says Cleveland Clinic. So try to avoid eating foods that could break your teeth (or falling off your bicycle).

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The aging process naturally leads to yellow teeth.

As we grow older, the outer layer of tooth enamel naturally thins, per Scott Edwards Cosmetic and Family Dentistry. That enamel wearing away exposes the naturally yellow dentin underneath, and due to the outer layer being porous, tiny holes in it grow while we age.

Heredity can also play a role in how yellow or white your teeth are.

The color of your teeth also partly depends on genetics, according to Scott Edwards Cosmetic and Family Dentistry. Some individuals are lucky enough to have thicker or brighter enamel, but you can't do anything about those genetic factors at play.

All that being said, if you are concerned about your teeth yellowing or have any other dental issues, make sure to consult with your dentist.

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