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Health Issues That Cause Yellow Teeth

Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health cover, examines the various health issues that can lead to yellow teeth, shedding light on the causes, prevention strategies, available treatment options, and some lesser-known facts that might surprise you.

“A radiant smile is often considered a reflection of good health and confidence. However, yellowed teeth can be a source of self-consciousness and concern for many individuals”, says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

“Aesthetics aside, yellow teeth have the potential to impact your health as well, making it crucial to understand the causes, prevention strategies, and treatment options”.

Affinity Health outlines the following medical, lifestyle, environmental, and other causes of yellow teeth.

Poor Dental Hygiene

Inadequate brushing, flossing, and regular dental check-ups can allow plaque and tartar buildup, leading to stains and discolouration. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and, if not removed, can harden into tartar, which is more challenging to remove and can contribute to yellowing.

Dental Erosion

Acidic foods and beverages, and frequent vomiting due to conditions like bulimia nervosa or acid reflux, can erode tooth enamel, revealing the yellowish dentin underneath. Enamel erosion can also occur due to aggressive brushing or using a toothbrush with hard bristles.

Extrinsic Stains

Consuming dark-coloured foods and beverages, such as coffee, tea, red wine, and berries, as well as smoking or chewing tobacco, can cause external staining on the tooth surface. These stains can penetrate the enamel and contribute to yellow or brown discolouration.

Intrinsic Stains

Some health issues can affect the tooth structure from within, causing intrinsic staining. These conditions include dental trauma that damages the nerves or blood vessels within the tooth. Intrinsic stains are often more challenging to remove and may require specialised treatment.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Inadequate intake of essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin C can weaken tooth enamel and contribute to discolouration. Ensuring a balanced diet rich in these nutrients can help maintain the natural whiteness of teeth.

Saliva Composition

Saliva plays a crucial role in oral health. Certain health conditions such as stroke, yeast infection (thrush) in your mouth, Alzheimer’s disease, Sjogren’s syndrome or HIV/AIDS can affect saliva composition, leading to dry mouth. Reduced saliva flow can increase tooth discolouration risk as saliva helps cleanse and protect teeth naturally.

Environmental Factors

Excessive fluoride exposure during tooth development, such as high fluoride levels in drinking water, can cause a condition called fluorosis, leading to yellow or brown stains on teeth. This is more common in areas with naturally high fluoride content in water sources and only affects children aged eight and under because this is when permanent teeth form.

Celiac Disease

Individuals with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten consumption, may experience enamel defects known as enamel hypoplasia. This condition leads to incomplete or thin enamel development, making the underlying dentin more visible and potentially causing yellow or discoloured teeth.

Gum Disease and Periodontitis

Gum disease and its advanced stage (periodontitis) can contribute to yellowing teeth. The inflammation and infection associated with these conditions can cause gum recession, exposing the tooth roots. As a result, the roots, which are naturally darker than the enamel, become more visible, leading to a yellowish appearance.


Uncontrolled diabetes can impact oral health and contribute to tooth discolouration. High blood sugar levels can affect the blood vessels supplying nutrients to the teeth, impairing enamel development and causing yellowing or brown stains.

Chemotherapy and Neck Radiation

Specific cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and neck radiation, can significantly affect oral health. Chemotherapy drugs can cause temporary or permanent changes in tooth colour and enamel defects. Neck radiation therapy can also lead to enamel hypoplasia and dentin discolouration.

4 Prevention and Treatment Options

Preventing and addressing yellow teeth involves a multi-faceted approach.

Affinity Health suggests these strategies and treatment options:

Good Oral Hygiene Practices

Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist regularly for professional cleanings can help prevent yellowing caused by plaque and tartar buildup.


Balanced Diet and Hydration

Limiting consuming foods and drinks that stain teeth and opting for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products can contribute to healthy teeth. Drinking plenty of water helps rinse away food particles and prevent staining.

Professional Teeth Whitening

Dentists can perform professional teeth whitening procedures that effectively remove stains and brighten the teeth. This can include in-office treatments or take-home whitening kits prescribed by dental professionals.


Dental Restorations

In cases of severe tooth discolouration or intrinsic stains, dental restorations such as veneers or crowns may be recommended to improve the appearance of the teeth.


Lesser-Known Facts

Age Matters: Did you know that, as we age, the outer layer of enamel on our teeth naturally wears down, revealing the yellowish dentin underneath? This can contribute to the appearance of yellow teeth over time.

Genetic Factors: Some individuals may have naturally thicker or more yellowish enamel due to genetic factors, making them more prone to yellow teeth.

Teeth Whitening Limitations: While teeth whitening treatments can significantly improve the appearance of yellow teeth, it is essential to note that they may not be effective for all types of discolouration. Intrinsic stains caused by certain medications or dental trauma may require alternative cosmetic dental procedures like veneers or dental bonding.

Enamel Thickness and Translucency: The thickness and translucency of tooth enamel play a role in the appearance of tooth colour. Thinner enamel can make the underlying dentin more visible, leading to a yellowish appearance. Additionally, highly translucent enamel can give teeth a more yellow hue, even if they are well-maintained.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading health cover provider, offering you a range of options at affordable rates, including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Our healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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