Why Do Our Teeth Turn Yellow as We Age, and What To Do About It

17 May
Mature Woman Great Smile | Smiles By Bis

Have you ever noticed that baby teeth are super white and beautiful, then adult teeth come in, and they are slightly more yellow, but then what happens as we age? Older people tend to have more yellow, worn out teeth, even if they take incredibly great care of them. Why is that?

Studies show that tooth colour in adult teeth is determined primarily by dentin, the layer of tooth that lies below the enamel. The enamel actually plays a very minor role in the true tooth colour. This is why worrying about stain, and whitening with external methods, like whitening toothpaste, oil pulling, baking soda, whitening rinses, or activated charcoal, is not effective at giving us that nice white sparkly smile we are trying to achieve.

In young people, teeth are brighter and less translucent. With age, the enamel layer thins, exposing more dentin, so teeth appear darker, especially at the gumline. This is where enamel is thinner so the dentin is less visible. Combined with likely a bit of gum recession and root exposure, this can result in very dark areas that can stop us from smiling fully. In addition, the surface texture of a tooth plays a significant role in the perceived colour. A smoother surface will appear whiter than an irregular surface.

So what can we do about our yellowing smile and make it as youthful as we feel inside?

Be gentle to your teeth and gums

The first thing I always tell patients who seem to try all kinds of home whitening remedies is: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There is so much mis-information on the internet, and much of the tips I read about tooth whitening not only don’t work but can be quite harmful. Often, the abrasive or acidic formulations that can remove stain, can also remove some of your enamel, which ultimately can lead to further damage, and even more yellow teeth. Being gentle with your toothbrush, and spending time rather than force when cleaning your teeth is a much better way to remove plaque and stain, as compared to the fast aggressive or abrasive brushing.

Professional Whitening

In many cases, professional whitening systems can penetrate and whiten the dentin, giving you a brighter and whiter smile. If your teeth have any restorations on them, like fillings or crowns, these will not change in colour when you whiten, so if you happen to have heavily restored teeth, you may not be a candidate for whitening. In addition, if you have very sensitive teeth, or gum inflammation from plaque or tartar build-up, whitening is not recommended until the issue is resolved first.


Many people ask about this option because it is generally believed that bonding is a less expensive solution for improving a smile. The issues with bonding are numerous, including short life-span due to chipping and wear and tear, frequent breakage, especially if heavy biting or grinding, aesthetic limitations due to type of material, and skill level of the dentist when applying it. In addition, because it is made of resin material, it can stain, wear, break down, and leak over time. So long-term, it ends up costing you much more.

Porcelain Veneers and/or Crowns: Smile Makeover

Restoring your worn down and yellowing teeth to a beautiful, whiter, more youthful appearance is one of the best ways to improve confidence, bring back your youthful appearance, and create a natural authentic feel that brings out your best personality. Seeing someone light up when they look in the mirror is one of the best things about being in this profession. I have seen people who haven’t smiled for decades, light up when they see their new smile and their personality comes out in full as a result. A beautiful, white, even, symmetrical, authentic smile can shift a person from feeling and looking old and worn out to full of life and energy in an instant. And that never gets old.

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