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Brush Every Day But Teeth Are Still Yellow: The Truth

Updated: Feb 13

We believe you when you say that you brush your teeth everyday but for some reason, the color is still yellow. It is not your fault and is out of your control because the color of your teeth is dictated by more than simply brushing them.

Table of contents:

Why are my teeth yellow when I brush them everyday?

If you're brushing them everyday and the yellow teeth aren't whitening, it means that the discoloration is coming from intrinsic staining and not extrinsic staining. If the staining is coming from deeply embedded stains in your tooth, the toothbrush won't be able to remove them because the bristles can only reach the outside surface of your tooth.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic stains

The intrinsic type of yellow staining are tightly bonded to the organic matrix of your enamel and will not come off with simple brushing. They are much more difficult to remove so your combination of whitening toothpaste along with your brushing will have little effect on it. It requires much more to be able to dislodge these stains.

intrinsic stained tooth
intrinsic stained tooth

extrinsic enamel staining
extrinsic enamel staining

In comparison, the extrinsic type of yellow stains are quite easy to remove because they located on the outer surface of your tooth. This gives your toothbrush easy access to be able to remove these stains.

What causes yellow teeth?

There are a variety of contributory factors, which can cause yellow teeth with some of them being lifestyle habits, dietary habits, and genetics.

Staining foods and drinks

If there is any type of food coloring in your food or drink, it will have the potential to stain your teeth. A general rule of thumb is that if it can cause a stain on your white carpet, it will do the same for your pearly white teeth. Some drinks, which are notorious for causing yellow teeth are coffee, tea, and red wine.

Smoking and tobacco use

The tar from tobacco use or any type of smoking for that matter can cause some tenacious discoloration of your plaque and tartar. The discoloration is lineraly proportional to the amount that you smoke so a 2 pack a day smoker will have worse staining than a a few cigarette a day smoker.

Poor oral hygiene

If you don't have good brushing and flossing habits, you will end up accumulating a lot of plaque in your mouth. If the plaque is left unremoved on your enamel surfaces, they will lead to yellowing of your teeth. This is why it is important to maintain impeccable oral hygiene if you want to keep your teeth white.


Over time, as humans age their teeth will slowly become more yellow. That is just the natural process of life. Children tend to have the whitest teeth, followed by adults and then senior citizens.

Tooth shade guide

As a general guideline, children tend to be in the one range of the tooth shade guide. Adults will be in the two range for shade while seniors will be in the three plus range.


Your genes can play a role in how white or yellow your teeth look because the thickness of the enamel influences the color of your teeth. Your enamel is translucent in color but the dentin underneath of it is more yellow. Therefore if you have thinner enamel, more of the yellow dentin will show through and make your teeth look more yellow.


There are some medications, which can cause very bad staining for your teeth such as the acne medication, Tetracycline. Individuals who took tetracycline while their teeth are still developing will develop a very unsightly and nasty looking stain. This type of staining is widely known as Tetracycline teeth.

medication stained teeth
medication stained teeth

Dry mouth

You may be surprised but dry mouth is a big contributor to yellowing of your teeth. The reason is because when your mouth is dry, you tend to accumulate plaque more easily and that starts a vicious cycle of bad staining. To make matters worse, there are a lot of medications such as those for high blood pressure which can lead to a dry mouth.


Teeth that have sustained trauma in the past and have died will start to become more yellow. Dead teeth physically look different from healthy teeth because once they die, the blood supply will get cut off. Since there are no more nutrients going to it, it will lose its youthful healthy looking color.

Does brushing your teeth make them whiter?

Despite having little effect on removing intrinsic stains, brushing your teeth can make them whiter and also keep them whiter for longer. The reason is two fold, extrinsic stains that are left on your teeth will give you a more yellow appearance and also by constantly removing these stains, it will actually prevent the extrinsic stains from becoming intrinsic ones.

Brushing will remove extrinsic stains

Brushing your teeth is very effective at removing extrinsic stains that have accumulated into plaque and tartar. The incorporated stains from foods other dietary habits can make your teeth look very unsightly. If you keep up your brushing, you can prevent the discoloration of your teeth from the plaque and tartar.

Brushing will prevent additional staining

Just because your teeth are still yellow even from brushing every day, it does not mean you should stop doing it because it can still prevent them from getting more yellow. If you allow the external stains to accumulate, they will eventually incorporate into your teeth and become the internal staining that you don't want.

What this means is that by maintaining your oral hygiene routine will prevent your teeth from becoming yellow and keep them white longer.

How to get rid of yellow teeth

The only way to get rid of yellow teeth is by removing the intrinsic staining with professional teeth whitening. Only your dentist has a powerful enough oxidizing whitening gel that can oxidize the tightly embedded internal stains.

Most whitening products contain some form of hydrogen peroxide and if it doesn't it will be another type of peroxide that will convert into hydrogen peroxide once activated. Hydrogen peroxide is the only material that has the ability to whiten your teeth by removing intrinsic stains.

If the whitening product you are using does not contain some form of peroxide, the chances are that it probably doesn't work. Most toothpastes actually do not contain it with the exception of one, Colgate Optic White. That is the only toothpaste on the market, which has some hydrogen peroxide but it is at a much lower concentration when compared to professional whitening products.

Do it yourself whitening

If you are unable to get professional whitening, you can always try the do it yourself options such as the crest whitening strips. These do come at a lower concentration so you may need to use more of it to get an equivalent effect. Although it may not be very effective for the really difficult and tough stains.

Teeth cleaning

Don't forget that you should have your teeth cleaned every 6 months or twice a year by your dentist because they can remove any stained tartar that brushing may not be able to do. Once plaque becomes hard, it is known as tartar and that does not get removed by simply brushing.

How to prevent yellow teeth

It is significantly more difficult to whiten your teeth once they become yellow so it would be prudent for you to prevent them from becoming that color in the first place. The best way to prevent yellow teeth is by having good brushing habits, dietary habits, and even preventatively whitening your teeth.

Good oral hygiene habits

You should brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes twice a day. After that you should floss your teeth to get rid of any food and debris that may be stuck in the nooks and crannies of your teeth. Last but not least, make sure you use a mouth rinse to remove any residual foods that may be left in your mouth after the brushing and flossing.

Good dietary habits

If you stay away from consuming a lot of staining foods and drinks, you won't have to worry about your teeth yellowing. Even if you can't because you just can't live without the coffee and tea, you should at least try to minimize the intake of them. Then it also helps significantly if you could rinse your mouth out with a glass of water after drinking the coffee and tea. This helps to prevent the stains from sticking to your enamel.

You should also eat calcium rich foods that you can keep your teeth nice and strong overall. Calcium and phosphate are two of the major building blocks for your teeth so it is always a good idea to have an adequate supply of it in your daily nutrition.

Whiten your teeth periodically

Even if your teeth aren't that yellow, you could preventatively whiten them to keep them from becoming yellow. This way even if they start to stain a little bit, they'll still be whiter than if you never did it in the first place. A lot of people do maintenance whitening once a month just for this purpose.

Get your dental check up and teeth cleaning every 6 months

It is incredibly important to get your biannual check ups and get your teeth cleaned because your dentist can remove the bulk of the extrinsic staining for you. It is also the best time to ask them about teeth whitening while you're in the dental chair. They will be more than happy to go through the whitening options with you.

Although to be clear, yellow teeth can still be healthy despite their appearance.


Brushing your teeth every day may not whiten your teeth as much as you like but you should still do it because they at least prevent them from becoming more yellow. There are a lot of causes of yellow teeth so you should try to eliminate them or minimize the amount of them in your life so that your teeth can stay white longer.

If all else fails, you can always contact one of our long island city dentist for professional teeth whitening. We use the KoR whitening, which is the most effective system on the market.If you want to learn more about how to whiten teeth, check out our guide.



David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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