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How to Remove Yellow Stains From Your Teeth [And How NOT to]
by Dylan Hao |
The odds of keeping the white teeth you’re born with as you get older are slim because of things like our diets, heredity, and outside influences.
Most of the people you see with sparkling smiles on movie screens and social media have had help getting their enamel that ideal shade.
But it doesn’t take a celebrity budget to get your teeth from yellow to white.
Let’s walk through how the layers of your enamel work and why they change colors. Then we’ll explain what you can do to remove yellow stains from your teeth and the trendy tricks dental professionals want you to avoid.
The Layers of Your Teeth (and Why They’re Stained)
To get a true understanding of how stains occur, it’s important to have a little basic knowledge of tooth structure.
You already know that your teeth are formed long before you ever see them. Babies aren’t usually born with teeth. The first one pops through in the first year, and the rest come and go until we have our full adult set sometime between 17 and 25.
During those years, diets and other factors play a role in how healthy the four layers of the teeth develop. Let’s look at each layer and how intrinsic, and extrinsic stains can happen.
We usually only pay attention to the outer layer of our teeth — the enamel — until there’s a problem like a cavity.
But four layers comprise each tooth, and they’re all interconnected.
The outside layer is the enamel. It’s the hardest substance in our body, even harder than bone. Although it looks like it’s colored, the enamel is actually clear for most of us and comes in different thicknesses.
Enamel can erode over time and doesn’t grow back.
The next layer under the enamel is the reason why we have various shades of teeth. This is the dentin. It’s usually pale yellow but can be red or amber.
When your enamel is thicker, it doesn’t show the color of the dentin as easily.
The third layer is the cementum. This is hard, calcified tissue that “cements” the tooth into place and covers the root. Cementum can repair itself, which is helpful because it protects the next, very sensitive, layer, the pulp.
The pulp is living tissue that forms and supplies nutrients to the dentin. It’s full of blood vessels and nerves that send signals to the brain. If you’re feeling tooth pain, chances are, the pulp is exposed.
Types of Stains in Each Layer
Teeth staining can be extrinsic, intrinsic, and age-related.
It’s crucial to know the reason behind the stains in your teeth because this directly affects the potential solutions you have.
Extrinsic stains are the most typical type of discolorations. These are surface stains that happen when particles from food, drink, or other agents, like tobacco products, aren’t removed quickly.
These particles build up in the protein film over the enamel. Luckily, they can usually be removed with diligent tooth brushing, whitening treatments, and professional cleanings.
Intrinsic stains occur under the tooth’s surface. These stains happen because those staining particles make it through the tooth’s exterior and into the enamel. It’s a frequent side effect of too much fluoride, and certain medications can cause intrinsic staining during tooth development.
Staining From Age
The third cause of staining is simply getting older. As we age, extrinsic and intrinsic staining happens. The layer of dentin becomes more yellow, and the thinning enamel shows the color more clearly.
Combining this with the discoloration from what you eat and drink (and tobacco use, if applicable), and you have the yellowed shade of most adult teeth. Good oral hygiene slows the damage down, but it’s likely going to happen gradually.
So, if your teeth are stained, you’re one of millions of others in the same boat.
The question is: what can you do to remove the yellow stains from your teeth?
How To Remove Extrinsic Stains
Think about your daily habits and “addictions.” Do you need that morning cup of joe to jolt you awake? And does your caffeine habit follow you throughout the day? If so, chances are, your teeth aren’t as white as you’d like them to be.
Caffeine isn’t the culprit, but the dark drinks that frequently contain it are. Dark sodas, coffee, and tea are some of the worst staining agents, yet over 68 million people drink three cups of coffee each day. Nearly half of them drink five or more daily.
Preventive Steps to Avoid Stains
We all eat and drink. It’s impossible to avoid the normal wear and tear and basic staining that comes with our diets. Most of this can be offset with proper oral hygiene and regular dental care.
(See the American Dental Association’s suggestions for daily oral health at-home routines if you want to make sure your habits are on target.)
But if you’re concerned that your diet could be causing your teeth to yellow, here are a few foods and drinks to avoid:
- Dark sodas, as the dyes in them cause staining
- Fruit juices, as the acids and sugars, damage the enamel
- Sauces with an acidic tomato base
- Curries, which can stain the enamel
- Balsamic vinegar, which is highly acidic and dark
- Soy sauce, with the high concentration of dark colors, is a strong staining agent
- Wine (particularly red), coffee, and teas (even green tea), as they contain tannins, particles that cause staining
- Tobacco, which stains and damages the teeth
If it’s too late to avoid extrinsic staining, you may be able to whiten your teeth with some natural or over-the-counter whitening methods.
When you’re just starting out on your stain removal journey, the problem could be minor enough for at-home methods to fix.
One natural remedy suggestion is the combination of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Baking soda is a common ingredient in many whitening toothpastes because it’s abrasive, which helps get rid of the particles on enamel.
Some people mix baking soda with hydrogen peroxide to make their own pastes. If you do this, use a professional recipe, not a random social media suggestion, to ensure your safety and avoid irritating your teeth.
Adding nutrients to your diet can naturally whiten your teeth, too. Vitamin C keeps your gums healthy, and calcium strengthens your enamel. Both of these play a role in avoiding decay and staining.
What about oil pulling? Coconut oil and other oil-whitening methods are trending in the teeth-whitening world today. While this method can’t hurt and might help your overall oral health, there’s no scientific evidence that it whitens teeth.
OTC Whitening Remedies
Looking for a quicker way to get rid of the surface stains on your teeth? Using an ADA-approved whitening toothpaste or whitening strips could do the trick, as long as you follow the instructions on the product.
These whitening products' active bleaching agent is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Leaving either of these chemicals on for too long can damage your soft tissue and enamel.
The downside of OTC kits is that they can leave splotches in the nooks and crannies. Since most of us don’t have perfectly aligned natural teeth, the strips don’t hit all of the surfaces evenly.
Professional Whitening Trays
You can avoid this problem and get whiter teeth with professional kits. But the expensive rates of a dental visit plus their special kits add up.
If you want the impressive quality results of a professional customized kit without the high-dollar price tag, check out JS Dental Lab’s affordable at-home whitening trays.
The impression kit comes in the mail with easy-to-follow instructions to make your teeth mold. Simply send it back, and your unique whitening kit will come to you within a few days.
Avoid These At-Home Methods When Whitening Your Teeth
With all of the potential DIY methods to whiten your teeth, it’s important to remember that they’re not all safe.
Some of the more widely suggested treatments, like these, make dental experts cringe:
- Activated charcoal, which is too abrasive for your enamel
- One-size-fits-most bleaching kits that are too strong or weak to be safe and effective
- Apple cider vinegar, a major enamel eroder
You should also avoid any whitening product that requires you to use it frequently, like toothpaste. The more often you use the active ingredients, the more they can wear down your enamel and damage your gums.
Related: How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last?
How to Remove Intrinsic Stains
The treatments above work well for extrinsic surface stains. But when intrinsic factors cause your discoloration, the teeth whitening treatments are different.
Whether the teeth yellowing occurred during your enamel development or is caused by medications or disease, it can’t be removed.
It can, however, be hidden, and the field of cosmetic dentistry makes this a simple process with a few options.
Dental veneers are wafer-thin shells that bond to the tooth’s surface. The tooth enamel is shaved down until the shell can slide over it so smoothly that it looks identical to the surrounding teeth. Since your enamel doesn’t grow back, the treatment is not reversible, but veneers can last for years.
Each veneer is individually made to cover any imperfections in your smile, like cracks, gaps, and discoloration.
These treatments are common in cosmetic dentistry, with multiple types available depending on your needs and budget. Your dentist may suggest ceramic, composite, or porcelain veneers, and each one has its own set of pros and cons.
Dental bonding is another possible way to cover anything you see as an imperfection in your smile.
With bonding, the dentist uses a tooth-colored material called composite resin to repair the damaged enamel or adjust the color of each tooth. This treatment can even change the shape of your teeth to make them look more natural.
Unlike having veneers applied, which requires the enamel shaving process, bonding is reversible. The treatment lasts between 3-10 years, and you can have touch-ups and replacements as necessary.
In some cases, a professional teeth whitening treatment may help the deep-set stains in your teeth. Talk to your dentist to see if your tooth discoloration can be minimized with a course of in-office treatments.
What to Avoid
When you’re trying to improve yellowing from intrinsic stains, you should avoid using OTC whitening treatments. At best, they’ll be a waste of time and money. However, they could cause more damage to your already sensitive enamel.
Another thing to avoid is skipping the dentist’s suggestions. They may recommend a course of care you don’t understand, like treatment for cavities or fluoride toothpaste.
While this won’t help your immediate shading concerns, it’s likely intended to prevent the discoloration from worsening.
Further reading: Teeth Whitening Solutions for Sensitive Teeth
You don’t have to be a celebrity to have a dazzling set of teeth. Once you understand what’s causing the discoloration to occur, you can move forward to find a treatment that removes those yellow stains.
If your problem is just starting, a natural home remedy, great oral care, and some extra vitamins and minerals could be your solution.
Also consider investing in JS Dental Lab’s high-quality professional whitening trays, custom-made for all the angles and curves in your teeth.