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8 Surprising Habits That Turn Your Teeth Yellow

You'd never suspect that these could be to blame.

A bright smile is widely considered one of the most attractive physical features a person can have. In fact, when the dating site polled over 5,000 men and women, they learned that a beautiful smile was considered the most important physical attribute in a partner. If you've noticed that your own smile is looking a little dim and grim lately, you may be wondering where things are going wrong. Experts say that besides common culprits like poor oral hygiene, there are several more surprising reasons that you might not have those pearly whites. Read on to hear from dentists about what causes yellow teeth.

RELATED: 7 Foods That Can Help Whiten Your Teeth Naturally, Experts Say.

What Causes Yellow Teeth

1. Forgetting to drink water

Woman Drinking Water From Glass
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

Drinking water can help rinse away food and beverage particles that can potentially stain the teeth if they linger too long. That's why Nicole Mackie, DDS, MS, FACP, founder of Dr. Nicole Mackie Dental Implant Specialty Center, suggests "sipping water between bites and drinking a full glass after eating."

However, it's important to note that water is the only beverage you should use for this purpose. "Our teeth do take notice when we drink anything other than water," Mackie points out. "This is especially true with soda, energy drinks, and alcohol—all of which are packed with sugar and acid that can soften the teeth's enamel. This weakening of the protective enamel leaves teeth vulnerable to yellowing and staining."

2. Mouth breathing

Man Mouth Breathing in His Sleep

You might not expect how you breathe to impact the color of your teeth, but dentists say that chronic mouth breathing can do just that.

"When patients breathe primarily through their mouths, it can lead to a chronically dry mouth," explains Jennifer Silver, DDS, an experienced dentist and the owner of Macleod Trail Dental. "You see, saliva plays a vital role in maintaining oral health. It helps neutralize acids and effectively washes away food particles. A lack of saliva, often due to mouth breathing, can make teeth more vulnerable to staining and yellowing."

RELATED: 25 Things You're Doing That Would Horrify Your Dentist.

3. Vaping

Young woman at home smoking electronic cigarette and spending time on mobile phone

Smoking has long been linked with yellow teeth, so that should come as no surprise. However, many people are shocked to learn that vaping has a similar effect on your smile.

"I've had many patients who believe that since vaping isn't exactly smoking, it doesn't lead to teeth staining. This is a myth!" shares Mackie. "The chemicals that make up the juice in e-cigarettes and vapes stain the teeth yellow or brown. To that end, vaping can also cause dry mouth, which can make it more difficult to fight off cavities."

4. Consuming acidic foods and beverages

Close up of a female bartender pouring pink cocktails into martini glasses.
Nykonchuk Oleksii / Shutterstock

Regularly eating acidic foods and beverages can also turn your teeth yellow by damaging their protective layers and allowing bacteria in.

"I have seen that consuming a diet high in acidic foods and beverages, such as citrus fruits, sodas, and certain salad dressings, can erode the enamel on your teeth," says Silver. "Enamel erosion exposes the underlying dentin, which is naturally yellowish. Over time, this can lead to yellow teeth."

RELATED: What Happens to Your Teeth If You Don't Visit the Dentist Every Six Months.

5. Eating and drinking "deep-colored" foods and drinks

heart attack after 40

Most people are aware that red wine, coffee, and tea can stain your teeth, but there are other foods and beverages that fly under the radar. Shahrooz Yazdani, DDS, a dentist and the CEO and director of Costello Family Dentistry, says that you should also look out for lesser-known offenders, such as balsamic vinegar, beetroot, soy sauce, and berries—any of which can contribute to teeth yellowing if you do not practice good oral care after eating.

6. Overzealous brushing

a couple brushes their teeth
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

Brushing or flossing too infrequently is an obvious recipe for disaster. However, few people realize that brushing too often can also cause the teeth to turn yellow.

"I have treated many patients who believe 'the harder you brush, the cleaner your teeth,'" says Mackie, refuting the notion. "The harder you brush, the more you can damage the teeth, enamel, and gums, leading to long-term dental issues, including yellowing. The same goes for brushing too often, as this can also wear away the teeth's natural enamel and cause the teeth to appear dull and yellow."

Mackie recommends brushing two to three times daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush with light pressure, in accordance with guidelines from the American Dental Association.

RELATED: What Happens If You Don't Floss for a Month, According to Dentists.

7. Forgetting to brush the tongue

Man looking at his tongue

There's another way that your oral hygiene habits could be making your teeth yellow: forgetting to brush your tongue.

"Many patients believe that brushing is just about the teeth. This completely leaves out the gums, the roof of the mouth, and the tongue," says Mackie. "The tongue can hold on to bad bacteria, causing the teeth to yellow. I recommend using a good tongue scraper as part of your oral hygiene routine."

8. Not replacing your toothbrush

toothpaste and toothbrush
DUSAN ZIDAR / Shutterstock

There are some instances in which poor oral hygiene is the result of poor tools. Mackie says you may find yourself in this situation if you forget to replace your toothbrush regularly enough.

"It is recommended that toothbrushes be replaced every three months because, after consistent use, the bristles become ineffective. This means the toothbrush can't effectively brush away bacteria and food particles to clean the teeth," she tells Best Life.

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Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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