How To Prevent Yellow Teeth
When you hear that wine, coffee, and tobacco stain teeth — that’s referring to the white, external part of the tooth — the part of the tooth that is NOT alive. This non-living part of the tooth (the enamel) is easy to whiten with whitening treatments that lighten the outer part of the tooth.
Inside your teeth is living tissue called dentin. Since that tissue is alive, it ages, just like skin wrinkles and just like all other living tissues age. When dentin ages, it yellows.
The outer part of the tooth (enamel) is like a clear prism or window, so whatever color the inside tissue of the tooth gets reflected through to the outside, changing the color of your teeth. This internal, living tissue of the tooth is very hard to whiten — sometimes impossible. No procedure exists today to give a tooth a “facelift,” so this aging is irreversible.
Since teeth are living, they are going to age just like any other tissue in the body, but there are things you can do to slow down that aging process and prevent your teeth from yellowing.
A lot of people think that their teeth yellow as they age because, the longer we live, the more exposure we get to staining foods like berries, wine, coffee, and tea — but that’s a myth. It’s actually the dentin — the inner, living tissue of the tooth — that is aging and yellowing, and being reflected through enamel.
As a tooth naturally ages, the inside living tissue shrinks. If you grind your teeth or clench, you’re putting your teeth under duress with strong vertical forces. A nighttime grinder can put as much as 250 pounds of force per square inch on teeth — enough to crack a walnut! These strong forces speed up this shrinkage and aging, eventually killing the tooth. A prematurely aging tooth is a yellow tooth. If you’re grinding and clenching your teeth, they are prematurely aging, shrinking, and yellowing from all that brute force. Don’t underestimate the damaging effects of grinding on your teeth!
Have you ever seen someone with just one yellow tooth? Very often, a tooth that gets knocked hard during childhood ends up yellowing much faster than the other teeth, which stay white. That’s because the tooth that got hit is dying faster than the others. Young teeth are white teeth. Protect your teeth from trauma. Protect them from falls by wearing a mouthguard during physical activity. Don’t hold up a glass near your mouth when at a cocktail party — you’d be amazed at how often people get bumped and knock their teeth!
If you’re malnourished and in poor health, or even taking certain medications, your teeth will turn yellower because you’re speeding up the aging process of all the living tissue in your body — including dentin. Nourish your whole body. Good diet, restorative sleep, and managing stress will slow down the aging process of all the living tissues in your body, including dentin.
Too many people, dentists included, are overly concerned with teeth stains from berries, tea, tobacco, soy sauce, and spicy foods. But when it comes to keeping teeth white, the most important thing you can do is to preserve the internal health of the tooth and thereby slow down the aging (and yellowing) process.