Why Do Teeth Turn Yellow With Age?

Categories: Teeth Whitening


If your teeth look a little more discolored these days, you might wonder if your lifestyle or habits play a role in this change. Maybe you drink coffee or tea on a typical day or have a few glasses of red wine now and then. If you’re a regular smoker or take certain medications, you might face yellowing teeth. Your smile will also naturally stain as you age.

It’s common for older adults’ teeth to need treatment to restore their former shine. Keep reading to learn about your options if you’re interested in restoring your teeth’s natural brilliance.

What Makes Teeth Turn Yellow as You Age?

Perhaps your teeth seem healthy, and you brush regularly like you are supposed to — but they are starting to look discolored. Aging teeth might face the following problems that make them stain more easily:

  • Thin tooth enamel: As you age, your tooth enamel gradually becomes more transparent and reveals the color of the dentin inside your tooth.
  • More highly visible dentin: Dentin pulp is slightly yellowish even when completely healthy. It is a hard, thick surface inside the tooth that can also stain.

What Are Other Causes of Yellow Teeth?

Many other factors can cause your teeth to look yellow. You can control several of these things by making healthy choices and getting regular teeth cleanings. Below is a list of the most common reasons teeth change in color:

  • Tobacco use: Smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco are common causes of yellow teeth. Tobacco has a strong color and tends to stain whatever it touches.
  • Caffeinated beverages: Caffeine on its own is harmless to your teeth’s coloration. However, the popular drinks you can find it in — like coffee, tea and soda — all lead to yellowing teeth.
  • Wine and fruit juice: Red wine can stain your teeth, and so can grape juice, cherry juice and other fruit juices with vibrant colors.
  • Disease: Certain chronic illnesses can make you more susceptible to yellow teeth, including chronic infections.
  • Medication: Some medications may make your teeth turn yellow over time. These include some antibiotics, antipsychotics, antihypertensive medications, chemotherapy and over-the-counter antihistamines.
  • Trauma: If your teeth were previously damaged, you might notice they turn yellow more easily.


How to Whiten Aging Yellow Teeth

Your dentist provides several treatments you can try if you want to whiten your aging teeth. The best way older teeth can be whitened will depend on your needs and preferences. Common tooth whitening treatments for transforming your smile back to its natural brilliance include:

1. Over-the-Counter Whitening

You can probably find whitening strips and gels at your local supermarket, but use caution when purchasing these products. Aging teeth with thin tooth enamel might respond poorly to this grade of whitening product. Chemical bleaching agents like those found on store shelves might also cause temporary tooth and gum sensitivity after use.

2. In-Office Tooth Whitening

A whitening procedure is great for patients whose yellow teeth were mostly caused by their diets or lifestyles. For aging patients, a simple bleaching procedure may be less effective than some other methods available. If you have a good amount of thickness in your enamel, this treatment is still a good option and can offer lasting results.

3. Dental Veneers

Custom porcelain veneers cover the front part of your teeth, hiding discoloration and helping correct other dental issues. This is one of the best solutions for patients who want a newly bright smile in a short period of time.

4. Dental Bonding

This treatment might be suggested for correcting the coloration of a single tooth or a small number of teeth. It hides a chipped or damaged part of the tooth with a specially formulated resin. Bonding works well for patients with oral trauma, but it is designed to work on a small area instead of a whole tooth.

Why Do Teeth Turn Brown With Age?

Sometimes teeth appear more brown as you age. The reason for this shift and the appropriate treatment for it can depend on what type of discoloration you experience.

The three forms of tooth discoloration are:

  • Extrinsic: Stains on the surface of your enamel make the teeth appear darker in color. Certain food and drink habits can cause this type of color problem, which is easily treatable with whitening sessions.
  • Intrinsic: Stains that have reached the dentin beneath your enamel make the teeth look yellow or brown when the enamel erodes. Your dentin can also turn a darker yellow color because of medications or excessive use of fluoride.
  • Age-related: The combination of aging and the above two types of discoloration make your teeth look more yellow or brown as the years pass. Luckily, there are treatments for older adults that can address a yellow smile.

What Is Enamel Decay in Older Adults?

Your enamel is a very hard substance and lacks any living cells. Once you lose enamel, your body is unable to grow a new layer. Over time, you lose enamel from the processes of eating and chewing. Accordingly, older adults are susceptible to having more yellowish or brown teeth than white.

Enamel loss may progress more quickly because of the following factors:

  • Acidic beverages: This is another reason to avoid drinking soda and alcohol, which can cause your enamel to soften.
  • Fruit: Acidic citrus fruits and berries with brightly colored juices are especially hard on your enamel.
  • Dry mouth: Your saliva helps restore your mouth’s pH balance. If you have a dry mouth from medications, you are vulnerable to acid attacks from your food.
  • Acid reflux: This condition can lead to problems with your teeth, especially if it is left untreated.

What Tooth Whitening Treatments Can Older Adults Get?

You can get your teeth whitened at any age. It is very common for older adults to seek treatment for yellowing teeth. Your dentist will help you decide which option is the best for you.

In-office bleaching procedures gently remove stains from your enamel, whereas a treatment like veneers gives you a newly white smile with a customized protective covering for your teeth. These treatments provide solutions you can enjoy regardless of your age.

Schedule Your Next Appointment With Drew Family Dentistry

If you’re ready for a tooth discoloration solution, schedule a dentist appointment today. Drew Family Dentistry is proud to help older adult patients in Tempe, Arizona, achieve their best smiles. Request an appointment to learn more about our services, or call us at 480-839-0502.