Whether it's for a confidence boost, aesthetic purposes, or to restore your teeth after years of wear or damage, there are plenty of reasons people pursue the benefits of white teeth.
And there's no reason not to—teeth whitening is safe when done correctly and can give you a beautiful smile in a relatively short amount of time.
But most of the legit ways to whiten your teeth are cost-prohibitive to some. Professional teeth whitening under dental supervision can cost thousands, and veneers can set you back over $1,000 per tooth. Other whitening fads like activated charcoal and apple cider vinegar can actually be detrimental to your oral health.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to whiten your teeth without breaking the bank or risking your tooth enamel.
If your plan is to take your teeth whitening matters into your own hands, these seven tips are safe, affordable, and effective in getting rid of yellow teeth.
What Causes Yellow Teeth?
If you have yellow teeth, you might wonder what caused them in the first place.
Teeth are naturally a yellow or off-white shade, but teeth whitening as a practice dates back to ancient Egyptian civilization. Slight yellow on teeth is normal, but excessively yellow teeth may cause alarm.
There are several potential reasons for excess staining or discoloration on teeth:
- Smoking and tobacco use
- Poor oral hygiene
- Consuming foods and drinks that damage teeth
- Dry mouth (xerostomia)
- Taking certain medications, including tetracycline, doxycycline, antihistamines, and chemotherapy drugs
- Trauma to the teeth
- Fluoride overexposure while young
- Certain diseases such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, HIV/AIDs, and diabetes
The most common culprits are poor oral hygiene and consuming foods and drinks that stain teeth. Since sweet, acidic, and starchy foods are practically impossible to avoid, proper oral hygiene becomes even more important.
But for nearly one-third of Americans, brushing twice daily isn't in the cards. This makes yellow teeth a significant problem that many have trouble solving.
7 Remedies To Whiten Yellow Teeth Fast And Easy
If you want a better smile, it'll take some work. Fortunately, there are a few different ways you can go about this.
The seven best ways to whiten yellow teeth and get rid of the stains include:
1. Brush Your Teeth Twice Per Day.
Teeth whitening products aren't substitutes for your regular dental care routine—you still need to brush your teeth twice each day.
Many people think that since they’re using a teeth whitening product, they don’t need to brush as often. But brushing your teeth helps remove the plaque that causes yellowing, and it protects your teeth from other dental problems that result in yellow teeth.
Although your teeth may look healthier after whitening, it is only brushing with fluoride toothpaste that can truly remove plaque and bacteria.
Using a whitening toothpaste can help you see whitening results faster than regular brushing. But they can be abrasive and increase the surface roughness of your tooth enamel, so it's best to use them for four weeks or less at a time.
2. Use Teeth Whitening Products.
Teeth whitening kits are effective at removing surface stains from your teeth.
Since they contain a small amount (typically around 3-10%) of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, they can whiten your teeth faster than brushing alone.
These kits come in a few different varieties:
- Whitening Strips: The most well-known teeth whitening product, whitening strips are thin pieces of film that are coated with a hydrogen peroxide gel. You place them on your teeth for around 30 minutes each day for the duration of your treatment and repeat the process every six months or so.
- Gels: Gels come in syringes and trays that you apply directly to your teeth. They can be used once or twice daily for several weeks to help remove stains.
- Pens: Teeth whitening pens contain a hydrogen peroxide gel that you apply directly to your teeth. They can help reduce minor staining and provide fast results, but they should not be used for severely stained teeth.
- LED Mouthpieces: A newer (and more expensive) form of teeth whitening, LED mouthpieces use a combination of light and hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth quickly. They build off of the original technology used in whitening strips and provide more consistent results than other teeth whitening products.
The amount of success you have with at-home teeth whitening products will vary depending on how yellow your teeth were to begin with and whether or not you have any underlying causes of yellow teeth (such as xerostomia).
And if you want to whiten teeth with braces, most of these solutions are unsuitable (unless you have a special clear aligner system like Invisalign).
3. Opt For Professional Teeth Whitening.
In-office teeth whitening is gaining popularity due to its effectiveness, safety, and convenience. Whether you want to whiten your teeth a few shades for aesthetics, restore your teeth after years of staining, or address deep staining from food or drinks, professional teeth whitening is your best bet.
And since it’s done under the supervision of a dental professional, you can rest assured that any sensitivity issues will be taken into account and that no further damage will be caused to your enamel.
Professional teeth whitening also offers more consistent results than many at-home whitening kits. Since in-office procedures like laser whitening and teeth bleaching contain higher concentrations of peroxide, they can provide brighter, more immediate, and longer-lasting results.
Your dentist will also be able to take care to minimize sensitivity and provide you with a personalized plan for maintaining whiter teeth.
4. Quit Smoking And Tobacco Use.
Tobacco products are some of the main causes of yellow teeth, and a huge body of research proves that they are also linked to oral cancer and other health risks.
Smoking or using tobacco products not only causes your teeth to yellow, but it also increases the risk of developing gum disease, cavities, and even tooth loss.
More than 40% of adults between 20 and 60 years old who smoke cigarettes have untreated tooth decay, making it one of the most common health issues among smokers.
Vaping can be just as bad for your teeth as smoking, as these products contain nicotine and the same chemicals found in cigarettes. They have also been linked to an increased risk of gum disease, cavities, and other dental problems.
If you’re a smoker or tobacco user, quitting is one of the best ways to get rid of yellow teeth. Not only will you be taking care of your oral health, but you’ll also be able to enjoy a brighter smile.
5. Use Baking Soda At Home.
Baking soda is a mild abrasive that can help remove surface stains and give teeth a whiter appearance. It works by gently scrubbing away plaque and bacteria from the enamel of the teeth as well as breaking down yellow-coloring molecules on the enamel, and research proves that it works.
To use baking soda for whitening, mix it with a bit of water to form a paste and then brush your teeth with the mixture for two minutes, making sure not to scrub too hard. Rinse your mouth thoroughly when you are done brushing, and repeat once or twice per week for best results.
You can also use baking soda in combination with other natural ingredients, such as hydrogen peroxide, for added whitening benefits.
6. Try Hydrogen Peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide is the base of many teeth whitening products, as it can break down the stains on your teeth and give them a brighter appearance.
In general, hydrogen peroxide is safe. But it can cause some sensitivity and irritation, so it’s important to be cautious when using it.
To use hydrogen peroxide for whitening, mix one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water and swish the mixture in your mouth for about 30 seconds. Spit out the solution and rinse your mouth out with warm water.
It’s also important to note that hydrogen peroxide should never be swallowed, and is best used in combination with other ingredients, such as baking soda.
7. Try (Some) Natural Remedies For Yellow Teeth.
There are several ways to naturally whiten teeth. Some of them are more effective than others, so it’s important to do your research before trying them.
Let's take a look at some of the most popular natural remedies for yellow teeth:
- Coconut oil pulling: To oil pull, swish a tablespoon of coconut oil (or olive oil) in your mouth for around 15 minutes and then spitting it out. It’s said to help remove bacteria and plaque from your teeth, as well as whiten them.
- Baking soda: As previously mentioned, baking soda is a mild abrasive that can help remove surface stains and give teeth a whiter appearance. Make sure to use it in combination with other ingredients for best results.
- Turmeric: This spice is said to help remove surface stains and give teeth a brighter appearance. To use it, mix one teaspoon of turmeric powder with a tablespoon of coconut oil or water and brush your teeth with the paste for two minutes. Rinse your mouth thoroughly afterwards.
- Apples: Apples and teeth whitening are often linked together since the former contains malic acid, which is said to help remove stains and give teeth a brighter appearance. Other fruits like strawberries also contain malic acid, so try nibbling on them or making a paste out of their pulp for an added whitening boost.
There are also several "natural" teeth whitening treatments that don't work, including activated charcoal (which can cause serious abrasion to your teeth) and apple cider vinegar (which is highly acidic and can erode tooth enamel).
Avoid these fads and opt for teeth whitening options with more research behind them.
Essential Tips To Prevent Yellow Teeth
Prevention is the best way to keep your teeth healthy and white. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Limit Your Sugar Intake.
Although sugar alone doesn't cause cavities in your teeth, it can lead to plaque build-up and, therefore, increased yellowing.
When you consume something that is high in sugar, the bacteria in your mouth will use its excess to produce acids, which then attack the enamel of your teeth.
Many sugary foods are also highly acidic. For instance, citrus fruits and juices, soft drinks, and some sports drinks are all acidic. When teeth come into contact with these acids, their enamel begins to erode.
Substitute Certain Foods And Drinks In Your Diet.
There are plenty of foods and drinks that damage teeth, including those that are high in sugar and/or acidic. These include:
- Coffee and dark-colored teas
- Alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and spirits
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Soft drinks, sports drinks, and energy drinks
- Vinegar-based dressings and snacks
- Starchy foods like white bread, chips, and crackers
To reduce the amount of damage to your teeth, consider substituting these foods and drinks with healthier alternatives, such as:
- Fruits like apples and strawberries
- Vegetables such as kale, spinach, carrots, and celery
- Plain water instead of soda or alcohol
- Yogurt dressings instead of vinegar-based dressings and sauces
There are plenty of foods that are good for your teeth, and choosing these over ones that are not can make a big difference in your overall health.
And if you do plan to eat these foods (as nearly everyone will), your dental care routine becomes even more essential. Since it's the best way to protect your teeth against some of the harmful potential effects of these foods, make sure to brush and floss twice a day, and visit the dentist for a dental cleaning at least twice per year.
Quit Using Nicotine.
Smoking will stain your teeth, making them appear yellow. Even if you spend thousands to whiten your teeth professionally, a regular smoking habit will still cause them to discolor over time.
Vaping has been found to be slightly less damaging than smoking, but it can still cause discoloration. It can also cause further damage to your teeth and gums by irritating the lining of your mouth.
Smokers can still whiten their teeth, but the only way to ensure success is to quit using nicotine altogether. Whether it's chewing tobacco, cigarettes, or vaping, those products will eventually cause yellowing of the teeth if they are used regularly.
Floss Your Teeth Every Day.
Flossing is an essential part of any dental care routine, as it helps to remove plaque and bacteria from between the teeth where brushing can't reach. This will help to keep your mouth clean and reduce the risk of yellowing or discoloration.
One dental health expert at NIH even states that every dentist in the country can tell whether or not a patient flosses.
There are a few reasons it's so easy for dentists to tell:
- Those who floss their teeth have stronger gums, which don't tend to recede as much.
- People who floss regularly have less plaque, which means their teeth will be whiter and brighter.
- When the dentist flosses teeth at the office, those whose gums bleed easily tend to have weaker gums that aren't used to flossing.
Floss helps people get in between their teeth, where food particles and bacteria can build up, which leads to discoloration of the teeth. After eating, it's important to floss to keep teeth healthy and free of plaque and tartar.
Use Whitening Products Carefully.
There are many over-the-counter whitening products available, such as toothpastes, gels, strips, and trays. These can be effective in whitening teeth, but it's important to use them with caution.
Many of these products contain abrasive ingredients that can damage the enamel on your teeth, making them more susceptible to staining in the future.
It's important to follow the instructions carefully and not overuse these products, as this could lead to further discoloration (i.e., yellow teeth after whitening) or heightened sensitivity in your teeth.
Want to learn more? Here are some questions our customers frequently ask us.
What Does It Mean If Your Teeth Are Yellow?
In most cases, yellow or off-white-colored teeth don't indicate much since they are within the normal range of tooth color. But excessively yellow teeth could mean several things, ranging from normal to serious:
- Dietary choices (i.e., excess sugar, acidity, or staining from foods and drinks)
- Smoking (tobacco, vaping, etc.)
- Medications (antibiotics, antihistamines, antipsychotics)
- Age-related wear and tear on the teeth
- Poor oral hygiene
- Other oral health problems
- Underlying disease or medical conditions
Is It OK If My Teeth Are Yellow?
It's important to note that teeth are not naturally white. The dentin (the layer beneath the enamel) is usually yellow or off-white, so slightly yellow teeth are normal and generally don't indicate much. Particularly in individuals who have a thin layer of enamel, it is normal to have teeth that appear somewhat yellow.
However, if the teeth are significantly discolored or stained, this could indicate a more serious problem. In such cases, it's important to see a dentist for further evaluation and treatment recommendations.
Why Are My Teeth Yellow Even Though I Brush Them Every Day?
Teeth are naturally yellowish in color due to the dentin, but they can become more yellow or stained due to certain lifestyle factors. Poor oral hygiene is a major contributing factor, but certain foods and drinks (like coffee and tea), smoking, and medications can also cause staining of the teeth. Age-related wear and tear on the teeth can also contribute to discoloration or yellowing, as can genetics.
At What Age Do Teeth Start To Yellow?
When a child is around 6-7 years old, their adult teeth start to come in and this is when their parents may notice that they are more yellow than their baby teeth.
This is normal, since the dentin is typically yellow-ish in color. As individuals get older and their teeth are exposed to certain lifestyle factors, they may become increasingly discolored or stained. And as they age, some people may experience more yellowing due to normal wear and tear on their teeth.
Do Yellow Teeth Mean Dirty?
Yellow teeth are not necessarily dirty—they can be stained from certain lifestyle factors, medications, or age-related wear and tear on the teeth. It's important to brush and floss thoroughly twice a day and see a dentist regularly for cleaning and checkups. Doing so helps ensure that your teeth remain healthy as possible, which is the most important factor in maintaining your smile.
Does Teeth Yellowing Go Away?
Teeth whitening is certainly possible. You can whiten your teeth a few shades by cutting out certain foods and drinks that stain the enamel, using whitening toothpastes and rinses, or seeing a dentist for professional whitening treatments. It's important to note that teeth whitening is not a permanent solution and will require regular maintenance to keep your smile bright.
Are Yellow Teeth A Sign Of Poor Oral Health?
Natural teeth have a tinge of yellowness to them, and it is only thanks to bleaching agents that users can achieve such white results. Yellowing of the teeth isn't always a sign of poor oral health, but it could be. If your teeth are excessively yellow, it is worth discussing with your dentist to rule out any underlying oral health problems that may be causing the discoloration.
The Bottom Line
In many cases, yellow teeth are normal. In a world where aesthetics are prioritized, it's easy to forget that oral hygiene is the most important thing when it comes to a healthy mouth.
Seeing your dentist for regular cleanings, brushing your teeth twice per day, and taking steps to avoid staining foods and drinks are all important for keeping your smile healthy and bright. But if you find that your teeth have become excessively yellow, it is worth talking to a dentist about the underlying cause of the discoloration.
If you prefer whiter shades of teeth, there are plenty of ways to improve your smile, including several teeth whitening options, natural remedies, and other non-invasive treatments.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that yellow teeth are not always a sign of poor oral health—and no matter what color your teeth are, taking good care of them is the best way to ensure a healthy smile for life.