The color of your teeth is a blend between the individual components of your tooth and their accumulated stains. That means the original color of the enamel, dentin, and pulp will contribute to the overall color of your dentition. The color that you see is simply a mix between all three of these components.
What explains the individual differences in tooth color between different people is how much stains their teeth have accumulated. This factor is highly individualized because it is dependent on lifestyle habits such as the quantity and frequency of staining food consumption.
Therefore the formula to determine the color of your teeth is equivalent to the sum of the enamel, dentin, pulp, and stains. If you wanted to know the natural color of your teeth, you would simply remove the stains from the equation.
Now without further ado, let’s learn everything about natural teeth color.
What is the natural color of my teeth?
The natural color of teeth should look white or have a very light yellow color to it. Evidence of this can be seen when the two primary central incisors erupt through a baby’s gums around 6 months of age.
The color of these two incisors are what we consider to be the “natural color of teeth” because they’re pure and untainted. What we mean by that is they are brand new and haven’t been touched by staining foods such as coffee, tea, or red wine. I mean, what baby is drinking any of those right?
Essentially these two teeth are like that brand new white t-shirt that you bought. The day you bought them is the color they’re supposed to be. However as you wear it and it picks up stains and gets old from wear and tear… the color starts to change.
This is why we considered the natural color of your dentition to be the color that they look like the moment they first erupt into your mouth. Now with that being said, the color of these newly erupted teeth are due to a mix among the colors of the enamel, dentin, and pulp. They are the individual components which make up your tooth.
Color of enamel
The enamel is semitranslucent and is a greyish white to yellow in color.
- The translucency can be seen in teeth which have thin enamel. The teeth look translucent or almost see through at the incisal tip of the enamel. That is a real life example of what the color of the enamel looks like.
- The enamel is also somewhat white in color because that is the color of hydroxyapatite. Your enamel is composed of roughly 97% hydroxyapatite so it would make sense that its color should be mostly derived from it as well.
To give you an idea, the picture above is of porous hydroxyapatite and what color they are. As you can see, it does look fairly white in color. You should expect your enamel which is composed of 97% of it to be of a similar color.
Color of dentin
The color of dentin is yellowish white. It consists of 70% hydroxyapatite with the other 30% being composed of organic substances such as type I collagen. The color of collagen also happens to be white in color but it can have a yellowish hue to it as well.
The picture above shows three samples of collagen in powdered form. As you can see the color ranged from yellow to white. We can extrapolate from the information here to what the color of dentin can look like.
Also in our experience, when we’re doing a cavity filling we know we have drilled into the dentin when the color turns more yellow. Normally when we’re drilling the enamel which is the top layer it is white but once we get past it and into the dentin, it turns more yellow.
Color of the pulp
The color of the tooth pulp is red because it is filled with nerves and blood vessels. As we all know, the color of blood is red and that is exactly what the pulp looks like.
This is clearly evident when we’re doing a root canal procedure and we’re trying to get to the nerve. We know we’ve hit the nerve once we see red. The pulp literally starts bleeding once you drill into it. The fact that the pulp is red in color is undeniable.
Teeth become yellow due to stains
Your teeth are naturally supposed to be what the color of your baby teeth looks like when they first erupt through the gums. However over time as we eat pigmented foods, the colors will slowly start to leach onto our enamel and change their color.
We repeat this process over and over again, day in and day out. Eventually the teeth will start to become more yellow over time due to all of these colored foods that we’re consuming.
Some people end up with very yellow teeth while others are only slightly yellow. The difference in yellowness has to do with our lifestyle habits. It all depends on the quantity and frequency of staining foods or beverages that we consume.
Those who drink a lot of coffee, red wine, or tea will have a greater propensity towards yellow teeth. Those who drink less of it will have whiter teeth. It is as simple as that.
How yellow can teeth get?
There is no limit to how yellow teeth can get. If you wanted an example, look no further than the tooth shade guide that your dentist uses to match the color of your teeth. This guide has the most common color for teeth on it.
The picture above shows the VITA tooth shade guide with the whitest shade on the left and the darkest one on the right. The 0 color is the lightest and the 5 color is the darkest. When the shade tabs are placed in an increasing scale of whiteness, it may be difficult to appreciate the differences between the opposite ends of the color spectrum.
Therefore, we’re showing you what the 0 vs 5 color looks like side by side. This is literally the whitest tooth shade vs the darkest tooth shade. It’s quite the difference isn’t it?
Basically what we’re trying to tell you is that your teeth can get very yellow.
Are white teeth unnatural?
White teeth aren’t unnatural but extremely white teeth are. The most common tooth color for adult teeth is the A2 shade. However, we do have some patients who are lighter than that and have a natural A1 or B1 shade. Children with newly erupted teeth also fall in around the A1/B1 range as well.
The photo above shows what the color of A1 vs B1 looks like. They certainly don’t look extremely white by any standards.
However there are people who are whitening junkies who excessively bleach their teeth to beyond that shade level. Alternatively, many hollywood actors also choose to get veneers to get teeth that are whiter than the B1 or A1 range. These extra white teeth fall under the bleached shade category of having a “0” color.
The picture above shows what a bleached shade 0M1 looks like compared to a B1 shade. The 0 color range is what we would consider to be unnatural but it is the whitest tooth shade.
How do you get whiter teeth?
There are two ways to get whiter teeth and that is either by bleaching or with veneers.
- Teeth whitening. Use whitening products which contain hydrogen peroxide which can chemically oxidize tooth stains. You can get your teeth whiter by a few shades but there is a limit to how white they can get.
- Dental veneers. If you can’t whiten your teeth to the whiteness that you want, you can always get veneers which are thin pieces of porcelain placed over your teeth. This method will allow you to get teeth the color that you want instantaneously. The only downside is that the procedure is irreversible.
In our opinion, you should start with whitening first since it doesn’t cause any irreversible changes to your teeth. Once you drill into the teeth for the veneers, you can never undrill it ever again.
If something ever happens to the veneer, the replacement will have to be another veneer. That means there is a lifetime maintenance/upkeep cost to having them.
The natural color of your teeth is simply what the natural color of your enamel, dentin, and pulp combined look like. Together they form a white to light yellowish color. This is evident in what babies with their newly erupted teeth look like.
However as we get older and start consuming more colored foods and beverages, our teeth start to stain yellow. Therefore they start off as white but don’t stay white.