Why Do Teeth Lose Their Whiteness with Age?

Mar 02, 2024
Why Do Teeth Lose Their Whiteness with Age?
Have you noticed that your teeth look duller as you get older? Or worse, they look increasingly yellow? It’s not your imagination. Teeth change with age, causing embarrassing discoloration that needs more than routine whitening. 

Despite their hard exterior enamel, teeth change as you get older. Little by little, they take on a yellow hue that becomes their new “natural” color, a shade that persists with or without additional staining.

The good news is that you don’t need to give in and live with yellowing teeth. Britney Beard, DDS, at Fremaux Dental Care, specializes in cosmetic dentistry, which includes a variety of effective treatments for teeth discoloration.

So, why do teeth yellow with age? Here’s what you need to know about this distressing problem.

Age-related dental changes

Each tooth has a strong enamel cover that protects its inner structures, dentin and pulp. The pulp (in the tooth’s center) contains sensitive nerves and blood vessels. 

Dentin lies between the enamel and pulp, supporting the enamel, protecting the pulp, and transferring sensations from the enamel to the pulp.

Age-related yellowing primarily occurs because of wear and tear on the enamel. The outer enamel slowly thins over the years and thinning enamel allows more of the dentin to show through. 

Dentin is naturally yellow. That means, your teeth take on the appearance of yellow dentin.


Your genes influence the color and thickness of your enamel. The combination you inherit affects teeth discoloration as you age.

You’re more likely to develop age-related discoloration if you have thin enamel. Inheriting bright white enamel may be great for your smile. But the dentin is more visible in lighter enamel as you age.

Lifestyle factors

Several lifestyle factors cause teeth staining that mimics age-related yellowing. Staining occurs when dark pigments in products like coffee, tea, red wine, and berries seep into the enamel.

Acidic foods and beverages make it easier for stains to take hold because they slowly erode the enamel. Some foods, such as vinegar and fruit juice, are naturally acidic. Others have acids added to boost their flavor. These products include carbonated beverages and sour candies.

Smoking is another factor affecting the color of your teeth. Nicotine seeps into the enamel, causing gradual discoloration over many years of smoking.

Aging amplifies lifestyle-related staining

Tooth enamel has tiny pores that let food and beverage pigments permeate the tooth and discolor the enamel. These pores enlarge as the enamel thins, making you more vulnerable to lifestyle staining as you age.

Prescription medications

A few medications, like tetracycline, directly cause yellow or brown teeth. However, other medicines you’re more likely to take as you get older indirectly affect tooth color.

Medications to treat high blood pressure (antihypertensives) are one example. These medicines may cause a dry mouth by reducing saliva production. Without saliva to rinse bacteria and food particles away from your teeth, you have a higher risk of tooth discoloration.

A lack of saliva also increases your chances of tooth decay and gum disease, so don’t wait to schedule a dental exam if you have a dry mouth.

How to restore a vibrant smile

Good dental habits — brushing and flossing twice daily and rinsing your mouth with water if you can’t brush after meals — help prevent tooth staining caused by lifestyle factors. 

Scheduling a routine dental exam and cleaning goes a long way to preserving the enamel. We can also eliminate lifestyle stains with professional Philips Zoom!® teeth whitening.

Age-related enamel thinning demands a different approach because teeth whitening can’t change the color of dentin. After examining your teeth, we recommend a cosmetic dentistry procedure that’s best for your unique dental needs.

Veneers are often one of the best ways to improve your smile because they’re versatile, cover discolorations and other problems like chips and cracks, and restore strength.

Don’t go through your days embarrassed by yellow teeth. Call Fremaux Dental Care or book online today to learn how we can restore your teeth and give you a beautiful smile.