8 surprising things that make your teeth less white

There are lots of reasons why your teeth aren't as white as the ones in the movies. You probably only knew about some of them.

If you stare in the mirror lamenting your not-perfectly-white teeth, you’re not alone. There are lots of reasons why your teeth aren’t as white as the blindingly white actor teeth you see in the movies. Having bright white teeth, especially as you grow older, is actually not natural.

Your teeth aren’t there to look pretty, after all — they’re there to help you chew your food. Even if they’re not blinding whoever you smile at, the color probably doesn’t need to be changed and you don’t need to be obsessing over them. Do you really want your teeth to glow like they are constantly under a black light? Probably not.

Your teeth are covered by a white layer called enamel. As you age, that layer wears away, revealing the inner yellow-tinted dentin of the teeth. White outer enamel can also be stained by the things passing over it, like coffee — this is called extrinsic discoloration.

Teeth whitening remedies dealing with these extrinsic stains may seem like an easy solution, but they can also cause tooth sensitivity and can even do more harm to your enamel. It might be easier to simply avoid stain-causing lifestyle choices than to try to fix the damage afterwards. So here are 8 surprising things that make your teeth less white.

Toothbrushes that are too hard

You’d think that firm bristles and a powerful brush would help keep your teeth white, but it actually wears away your white enamel!

So if you have an electric toothbrush, don’t push down hard on your teeth with it, as it causes unnecessary pressure. A soft bristle and a soft touch is where it’s at.

Skin complexion

You might be lamenting over your “yellow” teeth, but it could be a result of your natural skin tone. When your skin is lighter than your teeth, it can cause them to look more yellow in photos. The darker the complexion, the more white the teether appear.

Hence Mitch Helberg’s joke, “I was gonna have my teeth whitened, but then I said, ‘I’ll just get a tan instead.'”


Unfortunately, the acne fighting medicine minocycline can cause staining of the teeth. Also medication like antihistamines, Albuterol, and blood pressure medications can also make them more yellow, as can fluoride.


If you’re swimming laps many times a week, you might notice that your teeth appear more yellow. This is because the chemicals in the pool can cause swimmer’s calculus — deposits forming on your teeth!

The term “swimmer’s calculus” might sound like something out of an advanced math class, but it actually refers to a dental health condition. After prolonged exposure to the acidic chlorine ions in pool water, a swimmer’s teeth can develop yellow or brown stains.

While chlorine is great for keeping the pool sanitary for all the people who enjoy swimming in it, it can cause the water’s pH levels to become more acidic if it isn’t monitored carefully. Because our teeth are so vulnerable to erosion from acid, even the mild acidity of pool water like this can increase the risk of developing these stains.

These are not permanent stains and can be removed by your dentist.

Not drinking enough water

You knew water was vital for your health, but did you know it can help you maintain white teeth, too? Drinking water after consuming teeth-staining drinks and food can reduce the effects of these items. Think of it as a way to counteract any damage you’re doing by drinking black tea or enjoying a cup of coffee.


If you have teeth with a yellowish tint, it could be something (like enamel thickness or tint) that’s been passed down through your family. It’s not that you’re necessarily doing anything wrong, it’s just the way you’re made.

Not flossing enough

Your dentist wants you to floss, but it’s not just for your gum health. Keeping excellent dental hygiene can also keep your teeth whiter, because plaque can make your mouth more acidic which wears away at your white enamel.


Staining from soda is mainly caused by two substances: phosphoric acid and chromogens.

Phosphoric acid adds flavor but weakens your tooth enamel. Teeth with weakened enamel are more susceptible to the stain-causing ingredients of various foods and beverages.

Chromogens give cola its color but stain your teeth. When your tooth enamel has been eaten away by phosphoric acid, chromogens can easily cause a yellow, dingy tooth appearance.