Yellow discoloration of teeth is not uncommon. Some foods, but also some lifestyles contribute to this. In an interview, an expert gives a few tips that will ensure a bright white smile again.
Many people attach great importance to well-groomed, white teeth. What causes yellow teeth and how to get them white again, reveals Dr. Jochen Schmidt, dental director of Carree Dental in Cologne.
What causes yellow teeth or tooth discoloration?
dr Jochen H. Schmidt: Our hereditary factors play an important role here: like the color of the hair, the color of the teeth is genetically determined. That means: It is already clear before birth whether the basic tone is a sparkling white or rather yellowish. Factors such as age or the thickness of the enamel layer also play a role: this protective layer, which consists mainly of minerals, is the cause of the typically milky-white shine of our teeth. If it becomes thinner over the course of life, the dentin underneath shimmers darker and darker - thorough brushing of teeth or power bleaching will not help.
However, it is not only nature alone that decides on dental attractiveness: in the course of life, people have a significant influence on whether teeth discolor through dental care (domestic and professional) and lifestyle (smoking, red wine, black tea). With age, however, teeth generally become somewhat darker.
Are these discolorations harmful in the long run?
No, tooth discoloration is usually an aesthetic problem and not a health problem. Even strikingly yellow teeth can be perfectly healthy.
How to prevent yellow teeth?
Regular tooth brushing offers the best protection against tooth decay and discoloration. The right cleaning technique is important. My tip: Press the bristles gently against your teeth and then remove leftovers and plaque with small, shaking movements. Regardless of the type and function of the toothbrush, a sure instinct is required: scrubbing too hard damages the tooth substance, and even the best brush won't help.
It is also helpful to only enjoy nicotine, caffeine and red wine in moderation. Because otherwise, sooner or later, these stimulants in particular will lead to unsightly deposits of dyes on the surface of the teeth. Sticky foods such as honey, chocolate snacks or bananas also accelerate plaque formation - so grab them a little less often or brush your teeth well afterwards.
Is it true that, for example, coffee or tea with a dash of milk causes less discoloration?
White coffee or tea the English way, i.e. drunk with a little milk, have the advantage that they bind the tannins and can help to counteract discoloration. In addition, dairy products generally contain a lot of calcium, which strengthens the teeth.
How do yellow teeth become bright white again?
If coffee, tea, red wine and tobacco have already left their mark, special toothpastes can whiten tooth surfaces thanks to the active ingredient titanium oxide. But be careful: Some products rub off the enamel a lot and should therefore not be used every day. It is best to ask the dentist first. If the teeth are naturally yellowish, whitening toothpastes hardly have any effect. And if you have exposed tooth necks, you should avoid them altogether.
Bleaching, especially professional ones, can help against stubborn discoloration more effectively than special toothpastes: With this method, chemical oxidation changes the color pigments in the enamel so much that the teeth then appear bright and clean. Bleaching is only an option if your teeth and gums are healthy. The simple reason: in the case of caries or exposed tooth necks, the bleaching gel can get inside the tooth and, in the worst case, damage nerves. Therefore, before each bleaching - in addition to professional teeth cleaning - a dental check-up should be carried out. Incidentally, this method is ineffective for crowns, fillings or veneers, since generally only the natural tooth enamel can be lightened in color.
Can home remedies like baking soda help?
I strongly advise against so-called home remedies such as baking powder, cigar ash or lemon juice - even if these are repeatedly praised on the Internet as natural bleaching agents. Because the acids and emery substances contained in it cause the opposite of the desired effect: They destroy the tooth enamel and allow the dentin underneath to shine through more and more.
(This article was first published on Thursday, May 26, 2022.)