Human teeth are not perfectly white as it is often thought to be. The natural color of teeth can vary among individuals and is typically white gray to a light yellow in hue. Sometimes teeth may be a bit more yellow and even border on a light brown despite good dental hygiene and the absence of tooth related problems. There are various causes of tooth discoloration that may arise in life.
Sometimes the yellow tooth color may be present from the time that the first tooth erupts and becomes the natural tooth color for life. At other times, the tooth color may change and a person notices a distinct yellowing over time. The elderly may be at greater risk of experiencing yellowing of the teeth later in life. While it is not always related to dental health problems, the yellow color may be undesirable due to the cosmetic implications.
The outer visible layer of the tooth is the enamel. It is a hard material that protects the underlying delicate tissue of the tooth. Enamel is naturally a gray-white to light yellow color. Daily cleaning is isolated only to the enamel and even tooth whitening products and procedures only target this outer enamel. Over time the enamel may take on a different color as it is subjected to the daily stresses and strains of chewing, making contact with various foods and drinks, as well as the daily cleaning regimen.
The resistance of the enamel may wear down with age and it can become more easily eroded in the senior years. Lying immediately below the enamel is the dentin which is a softer substance that has a natural yellow color. When the dentin gets more exposed with advancing age, the teeth have a more yellow color. Similarly, some of the more common causes of yellowing teeth is more likely to be seen as a person gets older yet, such as the use of certain chronic medication known to cause tooth discoloration. Therefore, advancing age holds a distinct risk for yellowing of the teeth.
Discoloration and yellowing of the teeth may arise for various reasons. The most common causes are not related to any problem with dental health and hygiene. These causes include
Iatrogenic causes are situations where yellowing of the tooth occurs as a result of medical treatment, either for dental problems or other ailments.
Injury to the teeth and dental problems may lead to yellowing of the teeth. These are known as pathological causes of yellow discoloration of the teeth. It may include: