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Can Healthy Teeth be Yellow?

Oral health is important to whole body health, but can healthy teeth be yellow? And what causes yellow teeth?

Many studies have shown your smile plays a direct role in how others perceive and accept you, especially during childhood and adolescence. Your smile affects your self esteem. While there is no universal perfect smile, research shows the size, shape, and color of your teeth are important foundations of a balanced smile.

While the way a smile looks may be important for mental health, a healthy smile means more than simply good oral health. The health of the teeth and gums is a good gauge of your general health and well-being.

For some, tooth color can be an embarrassment. Instead of the pearly white teeth seen in advertisements, the color of your teeth may be a light yellow. But knowing that oral health means more than just a pretty smile, you wonder, does that yellow color mean you are not as healthy as you should be?

To understand the answer, you must first know a little about tooth anatomy. The visible part of the tooth is called the crown, which is covered in a layer of enamel. The enamel covers the dentin, and the center of the tooth is made up of pulp. 

Tooth enamel is made mostly of the mineral calcium phosphate, in the form of a chemical called hydroxyapatite. Hydroxyapatite is naturally white or colorless, which is why you start out with white teeth. However, aging and use affect the color of your teeth, and stains can develop.

There are two types of stains that can discolor white enamel: intrinsic stains and extrinsic stains. 

Intrinsic stains are inside the tooth, under the layer of enamel, at the dentin layer. Intrinsic stains can cause yellow teeth for many reasons, such as rare genetic medical conditions, use of certain antibiotics, mouth rinses, or other medical products. Intrinsic stains are difficult to remove and cannot be removed through regular oral hygiene practices.

Extrinsic stains are on the outside of the tooth on the layer of enamel. These stains often occur in hard-to-reach areas of the teeth. Extrinsic stains are more common, and teeth are naturally a yellow color due to many possible causes.

Can healthy teeth be yellow? Let us review three causes of yellow teeth and how they affect your health.

Plaque build-up

Plaque is the clear, sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth when they are not brushed. Poor oral hygiene can lead to plaque build-up, which can cause the teeth to look a yellow color. If left alone the bacteria in plaque will mix with sugary or starchy foods to form an acid, which can lead to tooth decay. Teeth that are yellow due to plaque build-up are not healthy.

Chewing tobacco

As you might have guessed, chewing tobacco can stain your teeth. If used long enough, the stains can penetrate the layer of enamel, through the dentin, and cause the outside of the root to turn brown or black. Chewing tobacco products also often contain sugar, so they can lead to tooth decay. Teeth yellowed from chewing tobacco are not healthy and chewing tobacco can lead to other diseases like cancer.

Food and drinks

Some food and drinks can stain your teeth. The main culprits are coffee, tea, and red wine. Also, blueberries and beets can leave your pearly whites less than white. These food and drinks contain color pigments called chromogens that bind to the outer layer of enamel, leaving a stain. Can healthy teeth be yellow when you are eating these stain-causing foods? Yes, but good oral hygiene can help reduce these stains.

If you are bothered by the yellow color of your teeth, teeth whitening products are available and safe for at-home use. Dentists can also perform teeth whitening, contact your dentist to learn more. 


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Rebecca Blankenship BSc
Rebecca Blankenship BSc
Rebecca Blankenship is a freelance technical writer. She reviews, edits, and authors internal quality documentation required for regulatory compliance. She has twenty years experience in industrial pharma/medical device quality management systems and an honors BSc in chemistry. She is a natural born rule follower and enjoys applying this strength to help others be audit ready to meet regulatory requirements. She also loves learning about the latest scientific discoveries while writing for Medical News Bulletin. Her free time is spent as a full-time mom, encouraging can-do attitudes and cooperation in her three children.


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