If you notice your teeth starting to turn yellow or gray, you may accuse your morning coffee or your evening wine, however, the popular culprits are not always to blame. There are multiple reasons why your teeth may be losing their white shine and dentists are able to treat them using different techniques.

Why Teeth Turn Yellow

Like previously stated, if your diet partly consists of coffee, tea, sodas, or wine, the outside of your teeth, the enamel, will definitely start to change colour. The same goes for balsamic vinegar, tomatoes in pasta sauce, and berries, because they contain dark pigments which contrast heavily against the white of your teeth. if you are a smoker, nicotine also leaves behind an unwanted yellow or brown tinge.

Stains are what occur on the surface, but the inner part of the tooth, called dentin, also yellows. Just like hair turns gray, this happens naturally as we age. A range of other reasons can cause accelerated yellowing:

– Fluorosis: Heavy exposure to fluoride as a child
– Use of tetracycline antibiotics before the age of eight
– Hitting and cracking a tooth, causing internal bleeding to discolour the tooth
– Genetics which determine the colour of your teeth

Whitening Techniques

The reason teeth turn yellow is often difficult to pinpoint in each person, but whatever the reason may be, it is reversible. Since both the enamel and the dentin yellow, whitening teeth must be approached differently depending on the patient’s needs. The two approaches are called extrinsic and intrinsic whitening.


Extrinsic whitening focuses on the exterior of your teeth, otherwise known as the enamel. Extrinsic stains can be removed at home with over-the-counter whitening toothpastes, but with low success rates, these toothpastes cannot compete with a hygienist’s work, who has much more effective cleaning tools that can erase surface stains.


No amount of toothpaste or scrubbing can whiten your teeth if discoloured dentin is your problem. A spotless enamel will act as a prism, letting light travel through it and directly to your yellow dentin. The intrinsic approach refers to the whitening of such dentin, which can only be done by a dentist. Professional whitening involves the use of powerful gels that aren’t available at the pharmacy, and are applied left to sit for a period of approximately one hour. Depending on how yellow your dentin is, multiple sessions may be required.

The other intrinsic whitening option is home whitening, which involves being fitted for a mouth guard, filling it with gel, and wearing it for one hour, two hours, or even overnight depending on the strength of the solution used. Similar to a professional whitening, home whitening uses a powerful gel which is not available over-the-counter, and allows those with a busy schedule to skip the dentist’s office hours to whiten at home or on the road.

Which Approach is for You?

Before getting your teeth cleaned, it is required to have a healthy mouth. This means that cavities, exposed roots, gum recession, or any related untreated issues must be taken care of before whitening. Now that you know a little bit more about whitening techniques, you may have a better idea of the approach you would like to take, but ultimately, your dentist will know best, so it is a good idea to get his or her opinion first.