Reasons for yellow teeth

Last Updated August 2021


Ever looked in the mirror and wondered how your teeth got so yellow? Many of us have.

Because yellowing can happen gradually, it can easily go overlooked. And while it may be disheartening and confidence-shattering to feel like you’ve lost your best accessory – your bright, white smile – you can get it back.

For starters, be aware of what causes yellow stains on teeth, and how you can avoid or limit exposure to those things.


What we eat and drink can affect the colour of our teeth, but there are other factors as well. Here are some of the most common causes of yellow teeth.

1. Dark berries

From blueberries to raspberries, berries with naturally dark colours can stain your teeth. That doesn't mean you have to stop eating your favourite berries though.

Rinse your mouth with water after popping the juicy fruits in to help wash away the dark juices before they stick to and stain your teeth.

2. Wine

Red wine is a well-known offender – but did you know white wine can also cause stained teeth? While the tannins in red wine are more likely to result in dark stains, high acidity levels in white wine can lead to yellow stains.

One way to help prevent staining caused by wine and other drinks is to use LISTERINE® Advanced White.

3. Tomato ketchup

This sugary, dark condiment with potent spices – including curry, cumin and turmeric – can stain your teeth over time.

Maintaining a good oral care routine in the morning and evening can help reduce staining. You can also drink water to flush away any teeth-staining food particles left behind after eating.

4. Fizzy drinks

Most of us may be familiar with the damage to our teeth that can be caused by the sugar in fizzy drinks, but many people don't realise they can also cause stained teeth.

Many fizzy drinks contain high levels of acid that can lead to stains on your teeth. Using a straw may help reduce the staining effects by keeping most of what you drink away from your teeth.

5. Tobacco

Smoking and chewing tobacco can stain your teeth, as well as leading to other dental problems, including gum disease.

6. Trauma

Childhood accidents below the age of eight that impact your teeth – such as slips, trips and falls – can damage or disturb the development of enamel.

Trauma to the teeth in adulthood can also impact blood flow and cause damage to nerves in your teeth, which can then cause teeth to look darker.

7. Age

Yellow stains on teeth are a natural part of ageing. As you grow older the outer layer of your enamel wears away, exposing the yellow dentin beneath.

The translucency of the tooth reduces as you get on in life too, making it look darker. Plus, your tooth dentin also grows as you age. This decreases the size of the pulp, which could make stains more noticeable.

8. Poor oral hygiene

Good oral hygiene keeps your teeth healthy and can also help them look their best. If you don't brush or clean between your teeth every day and skip trips to the dentist, plaque and food stains can build up on your teeth.


There are lots of things you can try to reduce stains on your teeth. From natural, at-home remedies to professional dental treatments, these are some of the ways you may be able to reduce or remove stains from your teeth.

1. LISTERINE® mouthwashes

               o   Remove 99% of plaque-causing germs (in a lab study)

               o   Lift existing stains and prevent new stains

               o   Remineralise and strengthen teeth

2. Calcium

Yellow stains on teeth can be caused by enamel erosion, exposing the naturally yellower dentin underneath. Food and drink that are rich in calcium – like milk, cheese, and broccoli – could help strengthen your enamel and prevent further erosion.

3. Fruit

Certain fruit enzymes are often added to toothpastes to help reduce discolouration. Papain enzyme from the papaya fruit and bromelain from pineapples are two fruit enzymes that may help remove stains from teeth.

4. Prevention

Working to prevent teeth staining in the first place can be better than trying to remove it later as a great way to keep them looking bright.

There’s no need to completely cut them out of your diet, but try to limit your intake of coffee, red wine, fizzy drinks, and dark berries. You can also try drinking through a straw, which may help reduce the amount of contact between the staining substances and the surface of your teeth.

5. Professional whitening

When your enamel is still strong, you may be able to have your teeth professionally whitened by bleaching them. This is often the most effective way to get rid of yellow stains and brighten your teeth. This type of teeth whitening should only be carried out under the guidance of your dentist.

6. Brushing, flossing and using mouthwash

Practising good dental hygiene is the foundation for maintaining your happy and healthy smile – helping to keep your teeth white by reducing bacteria and preventing plaque from building up. Flossing may also catch stubborn plaque from between your teeth. Using a fluoride mouthwash as part of your daily routine can help strengthen enamel.

7. Water

Drinking plenty of water, especially after eating or drinking something that's likely to stain your teeth, can help reduce staining. Water may help wash away any food and drink particles stuck to your teeth that might otherwise cause staining.

8. Veneers

If your teeth are yellow and cracked or uneven, you could speak to your dentist about porcelain veneers. These are custom-made porcelain 'shells' that cover the front of the tooth. Once applied, they can help to improve the colour and shape of your teeth.

9. Quit smoking

Smoking is a big problem when it comes to yellow stains on your teeth, so quitting is a great way to try and reduce further staining. Remember, staining often gets worse the longer you smoke, so the sooner you quit, the more likely you are to minimise staining.


Yellow teeth aren't the only sign of staining. You may also spot black or white stains on your teeth.

Black stains on teeth

There are several reasons you might develop black stains on your teeth. Some of the most common can include:

  • Tooth decay and cavities – Bacteria can destroy dental enamel, leaving small holes behind. These holes are called cavities, and they often have a dark appearance.
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco – Over time, tobacco use can cause staining on your teeth, making them look black.
  • Tea and coffee stains on teeth – Drinking lots of tea and coffee regularly increases the number of tannins your teeth come into contact with, which can leave behind dark stains.
  • Tartar build-up – Tartar is a hard deposit of plaque that builds up below the gum line, which may create dark stains on teeth.
  • Red wine – The tannins in red wine can leave dark stains on your teeth if you don’t rinse your mouth or clean your teeth afterwards.

White stains on teeth

White stains on teeth can be caused by several things. Your dentist may be able to determine what the causes are and suggest appropriate treatment. Typically, the most common causes of white stains on your teeth can include:

  • Diet – Eating too many acidic foods that wear away your enamel may leave white spots on your teeth.
  • Fluorosis – Fluoride is a common ingredient in toothpaste. It can help strengthen and protect your teeth from erosion and decay, but too much in developing teeth can cause white spots.
  • Plaque – A build-up of plaque can cause white spots to develop on your teeth. This is especially common after wearing braces, where the brackets may have affected your ability to clean your teeth.
  • Sleeping with your mouth open – White stains on teeth can often develop if you sleep with your mouth open as it may dehydrate the enamel on your teeth. If this is the case, the spots should disappear once your teeth are rehydrated.


Are teeth naturally white?

Teeth are not naturally white. They are a pearly shade that, as we age, gradually turns more yellow. You see this first when a baby’s white teeth are replaced by permanent teeth that are, by nature, more yellow in colour. As we get older, the outer layer of enamel on the teeth wears down and exposes the dentin layer of the teeth, which is more yellow.

Can my dentures yellow over time?

Yes, false teeth can absolutely stain and turn colours over time. This is especially true if you smoke, or drink a lot of tea, coffee or red wine. Avoid this scenario by maintaining stellar oral hygiene even when your teeth are false, and brush and soak your dentures regularly while also following the proper steps to clean your dentures.