Fact or Fiction: Busting 6 Myths About Teeth Yellowing

Worried that your pearly whites aren’t quite so white anymore? From DIY pastes using activated charcoal to OTC tooth whitening kits, it seems like we’re all on a quest to achieve the brightest, whitest smile possible.

Teeth yellowing is a common enough occurrence, but many people don’t fully understand why it happens—and misconceptions about teeth stains run rampant. To help you separate fact from fiction, we’ve rounded up a few of the most common myths about yellow teeth.

Myth: Teeth are naturally bright white

Let’s start with this one, since it’s one of the most common misconceptions about tooth discoloration. Teeth aren’t naturally a dazzling, white color, unless you’re one of those who won the genetic lottery.

Your teeth are composed of minerals, cementum, dental pulp, and dentin—that last of which has a natural yellow tone. While the enamel that covers dentin is white, it’s translucent enough to allow dentin to show through. Having thinner enamel means that the dentin shows up more, which causes teeth to have a more yellowish tone.

Myth: A yellow color means your teeth are unhealthy

While it’s true that plaque buildup can amplify yellow tones in the teeth, having yellow teeth does not necessarily mean your teeth aren’t healthy. If you are genetically predisposed to have thinner enamel or enamel that isn’t quite as white, there’s not much you can do to prevent darker teeth. Even those who have tooth discoloration caused by coffee or wine intake don’t necessarily have an unhealthy smile.

As long as you follow a solid at-home cleaning regimen, have routine dental cleanings and exams, and have received a clean bill of health from your dentist, you don’t need to worry about yellow teeth impacting your overall health.

Myth: Straws will save your teeth from stains

This myth originates from a simple idea: if drinks like soda and coffee can stain your teeth, a straw will keep them from making contact with your teeth.

While it sounds good in theory—and we’d love to have a foolproof way to avoid teeth discoloration from certain beverages—straws simply don’t do anything to protect your teeth. Whether you drink through a straw or a regular cup, the liquid swishes around the inside of your mouth before swallowing. So go ahead, sip and enjoy your favorite beverages—just plan on getting regular dental cleanings to keep staining in check.

Myth: Tea won’t stain your teeth as much as coffee

Still want your dose of morning caffeine but worried about your teeth? Unfortunately, swapping your coffee for tea isn’t going to prevent teeth staining—and may actually result in more discoloration. Because black teas contain higher levels of tannins than coffee, they can leave darker stains behind on your teeth, often in a shorter amount of time.

Myth: You’re out of luck if you consume foods and beverages that stain teeth

Don’t assume that you have to choose between certain foods and having white teeth—or that you can’t do anything to prevent staining if you eat or drink items that have tannins or other substances that discolor teeth. Even your dentist doesn’t want you to give up your favorite food and drinks!

To lower your risk of having stained teeth, brush soon after eating or drinking beverages that can stain teeth using a toothpaste that addresses surface staining. And, of course, have your teeth cleaned professionally twice a year.

Fact: Teeth whitening can brighten yellowed teeth

Professional teeth whitening can break up yellow stains and discolorations on your teeth, leaving you with a brighter smile. While over-the-counter whitening products are easily available and might seem more convenient, they’re not as safe or effective as professional whitening services. In the hands of a professional, you can enjoy whiter smile that you’re proud to show off without damaging your teeth.

If you have yellowed teeth and want to make them brighter, please give us a call. Dr. Gurley offers Atlanta teeth whitening and gentle dentistry in a safe, welcoming environment.

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