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Will yellow teeth ever become white?

Having yellow teeth is a common issue that many people face. Teeth naturally yellow over time due to changes in the mineral structure of the tooth, but certain foods, drinks, and habits can make teeth yellow faster. The good news is that in most cases, it is possible to whiten yellow teeth and restore them to their natural white color.

What causes yellow teeth?

There are several factors that contribute to yellow teeth:

  • Aging – As you age, the outer enamel layer of the teeth gets thinner, allowing the yellowish dentin underneath to show through more.
  • Food and drink stains – Darkly pigmented foods and drinks like coffee, tea, red wine, and berries can stain the enamel over time.
  • Smoking – Nicotine and tar in cigarettes bind to the teeth and cause stubborn brownish stains.
  • Medications – Some prescriptions like antibioticscontaining tetracycline can discolor teeth.
  • Genetics – Some people naturally have thinner enamel or larger enamel rods that make teeth appear more yellow.
  • Excessive fluoride – Too much fluoride consumption while teeth are developing can lead to fluorosis, which causes white specks and streaks.
  • Trauma – An injury that causes dentin to show through the enamel can result in a yellowish hue.
  • Disease – Yellowish discoloration can indicate dental issues like enamel decay or pulp inflammation.

As you can see, there are many contributing factors to yellow teeth. Understanding what’s causing your discoloration is important when choosing the right whitening treatment.

Types of whitening treatments

If you want to banish yellow teeth, there are several effective whitening treatments to consider:

  • Whitening toothpaste: Over-the-counter whitening toothpastes use mild abrasives and chemicals like hydrogen peroxide to lift superficial stains from the teeth. However, they can only lighten teeth by about one shade.
  • Whitening strips: Whitening strips coated with peroxide gel must be applied twice daily for 1-2 weeks to see results. They can lighten teeth up to 7 shades but may cause gum irritation.
  • Whitening trays: Custom fitted trays are filled with peroxide gel and worn for 1-2 hours daily or overnight for 1-2 weeks. This method whitens teeth up to 8 shades with less gum irritation.
  • In-office whitening: A dentist applies a high-concentration peroxide gel to the teeth and uses a special light to activate and accelerate the whitening. A single one-hour treatment can lighten teeth up to 8 shades.
  • At-home monitored whitening: Provided by a dentist, a custom fitted tray dispenses lower concentration whitening gel to be worn daily for 1-2 weeks, lightening teeth up to 6 shades.

Your dentist can help you determine the most effective whitening treatment based on the cause and severity of your yellow teeth. More dramatic discoloration often requires methods like in-office or dentist-monitored at-home whitening.

When are whitening methods effective?

The good news is that most people can significantly whiten their teeth. Here is an overview of when whitening methods are most effective:

  • Mild yellowing or surface stains – Over-the-counter methods like whitening toothpaste and strips can visibly brighten teeth 3-7 shades.
  • Yellowish gray teeth – At-home trays with peroxide gel can lighten these teeth 5-8 shades.
  • Dull yellow brown teeth – In-office or dentist-provided whitening usually lightens these teeth 6-8 shades.
  • Dark yellow brown teeth – Severely discolored teeth may require multiple rounds of strong in-office or dentist-supervised whitening to see significant improvement.

Keep in mind results depend on factors like genetics, age, and condition of teeth. For example, whitening is less effective on elderly patients as teeth yellow more with age. And teeth with defects or fillings don’t whiten as readily. Talk to your dentist about realistic whitening outcomes for your situation.

How long do whitening results last?

Whitening treatments don’t provide permanent results. Without touch-ups, your teeth will eventually revert back to their original color. Here’s an overview of how long you can expect whitening results to last:

  • Whitening toothpaste – Less than 6 months.
  • Whitening strips – About 6-12 months.
  • Whitening trays – 1-3 years.
  • In-office whitening – 1-3 years.

To maintain white teeth, you may need periodic touch-up treatments. Or use preventive measures like avoiding staining foods and drinks right after whitening. With proper care, you can better prolong the results of whitening.

Risks and side effects

Professional whitening methods are generally safe when used correctly. But some people experience temporary side effects like:

  • Tooth sensitivity – Due to irritation of the dentin layer.
  • Gum irritation – Caused by contact with the whitening gel.
  • Cavities – Whitened teeth are prone to decay so maintain good oral hygiene.
  • Relapse – Teeth slowly revert back to discolored state without touch-ups.

These side effects are usually mild and resolve within a few days after treatment. More significant risks include:

  • Tooth damage – From overuse or improper application of whitening products.
  • Gum and nerve inflammation – In rare cases with hydrogen peroxide sensitivity.
  • Thinning or weakened enamel – Excessive whitening can decrease mineral content of teeth.

Talk to your dentist about any concerns regarding the safety or risks of professional whitening for your situation.

Home remedies

In addition to commercial whitening products, there are some natural home remedies you can try to remove yellow stains from teeth:

  • Baking soda – Make a paste with baking soda and water and brush gently onto teeth. The abrasive and alkaline properties help scrub away surface stains.
  • Hydrogen peroxide – Swish a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide around the mouth for 1-2 minutes. Rinse with water. Do not swallow the peroxide.
  • Apple cider vinegar – Use as a 30 second mouthwash before brushing. The acetic acid may help whiten and kill bacteria.
  • Coconut oil pulling – Swish oil in mouth for 10-20 minutes then spit out. Helps remove plaque that can cause yellowing.
  • Fruits like strawberries – Bite into and rub the malic acid-rich fruits on teeth to whiten.
  • Crunchy fruits and vegetables – The abrasive texture helps scrub away plaque and surface stains when chewed.

While home remedies aren’t as dramatic as professional whitening, they can help maintain whiter teeth between treatments.

Preventing future yellowing

Once you’ve whitened your teeth, you’ll want to keep them looking bright by preventing future stains. Here are some tips:

  • Brush and floss twice daily.
  • Avoid heavily pigmented foods and drinks.
  • Drink dark liquids through a straw.
  • Rinse mouth with water after consuming staining foods and drinks.
  • Get regular dental cleanings every 6 months.
  • Use an enamel-safe toothpaste.
  • Drink plenty of water to help neutralize acids from food and drinks.
  • Avoid smoking and tobacco products that cause brown stains.

Making a few lifestyle changes can really help prolong the results of teeth whitening!

When to see a dentist

It’s a good idea to get a dental exam before undergoing any whitening treatments. A dentist can help determine if yellow teeth are due to surface stains or internal changes in the tooth structure. They can also identify any problems like cavities, leaky fillings, or gum disease that need to be addressed first. Professional cleaning and polishing procedures can get rid of external stains and prepare the teeth for whitening.

See a dentist right away if you experience any tooth sensitivity, pain, or irritation after using whitening products. You should also consult a dentist about whitening if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, under age 14, or have extensive dental work like crowns or veneers.


While aging, foods, and bad habits can cause yellow teeth, don’t resign yourself to a dull smile. Effective teeth whitening treatments can safely brighten your smile 5-8 shades or more. Options range from over-the-counter products to in-office procedures performed by a dentist. Just be sure to talk to your dentist first to determine the best whitening method and prevent complications. With periodic touch-ups and preventive care, you can keep your pearly whites, well, pearly white.