Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why do teeth get yellow?” you ask? Good question. (Besides, it beats answering the question: “Why do I have more hair growing out of my ears than out of my head?” Well, if you are middle-aged it’s natural. Grow a mustache though so if you miss your flourishing nose hair no one will notice. If you’re still really young then you must have terrible genes. You have our sympathies . . . especially if you’re a woman.)
Don’t kid yourself. Those famous folks and people in dentist ads may have pearly white teeth but that just ain’t natural. Most folks have naturally duller smiles. There are a number of reasons why teeth get yellow or become discolored.
Research reveals that there are two kinds of discoloration. They are intrinsic and extrinsic staining. With intrinsic staining different things influence the light-transmitting capabilities of tooth enamel and the dentin that underlies it.
According to the Sharecare website, “intrinsic staining is staining of the dentin, or the inner layer of teeth. It is usually caused by an internal problem or from certain medications.”
Live Science lists a number of examples of medications that could cause discoloration including: “the antibiotics tetracycline and doxycycline . . . “chlorhexidine, an antiseptic used in prescription-strength mouthwash to treat gingivitis . . . the acne-fighting drug minocycline” and drugs such as “antihistamines and blood pressure medications can sometimes yellow teeth.” Even chemotherapy directed at the neck and head or ingesting too much fluoride can stain your teeth.
Sharecare states: “extrinsic stains refer to those stains on the outer layer of teeth, or on the enamel.” These stains are directly related to diet. Black tea, coffee, red wine, certain fruits all can stain your teeth. It’s mainly because they are high in pigment-creating materials that stick to tooth enamel called chromogens.
LS add that acidic foods and beverages can make matters worse “by eroding tooth enamel and making it easier for chromogens to latch onto the teeth.” Tannin, a compound in tea and wine “also helps chromogens attach to tooth enamel.” Tobacco products also cause these stains as does simply not regularly brushing one’s teeth.
Finally, there are biological reasons why teeth get yellow. Genes and age are also involved in yellowing teeth. One can be born with teeth that look more yellow. As LS notes, part of it “has to do with the thickness of your enamel, which is semi-translucent. That is, if you have thin enamel, the true color of your naturally yellowish dentin will shine through. Similarly, your enamel thins as you age, making your teeth appear more yellow.”
Why do teeth get yellow? Now you know.
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