Why is my child’s teeth yellow and discoloured?

The innocent smile of a child brings joy to all parents. When your child cannot smile enough because of tooth problems, is most disheartening to parents. If your child’s yellow teeth are giving you sleepless nights, then this writeup is just for you. Know all about yellow or discoloured teeth in children right here……….

Natural colour of teeth

The milk teeth are whiter than the adult teeth. Because milk teeth has lesser dentin. In the mixed dentition phase, where the adult teeth co- exist with the milk teeth, some teeth may look yellowish. This is because the adult teeth have a more translucent enamel. The inner tooth layer called dentin is more yellow. This difference in the colour of the milk teeth and the adult teeth is normal.

What is tooth discolouration?

In children tooth discolouration can be because of internal factors related to tooth enamel, trauma, dental fluorosis or medications during pregnancy that affect the colour of the tooth. Tooth discolourations can be due to external factors like poor oral hygiene habits, foods that stain teeth or certain medications. Since the treatment  of yellow teeth in children depends on the cause, it’s best to seek your pedodontist’s ( child dentist’s )advice.

What are the causes for tooth discolouration in children?

1)Tooth decay or dental caries

A tooth decay in the child’s mouth due to poor oral hygiene can cause discolouration of teeth. Encourage your child to brush regularly, preferably under adult supervision to remove left over food particles in your kids mouth.

2)Poor oral hygiene habits

If your kids do not follow proper oral hygiene and neglect tooth brushing, it may lead to plaque / tartar accumulation and thus change the colour of their teeth. Motivation to brush teeth among youngsters is our responsibility.

3)Fluorosis

Fluoride is an element in drinking water that affects the health of our teeth. In moderate amounts, fluoride is beneficial for the teeth by making it more resistant to tooth decay. In higher amounts fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, which is a discolouration of the teeth. When high amounts of fluoride are consumed by a pregnant woman, it affects both the milk teeth and the adult teeth.

4)Foods and Beverages

Polyphenols in foods, which provide natural pigments, can stain the teeth. Foods like blueberries, cherries, coffee and tea stain teeth on repeated exposure. Soda drinks can weaken teeth and make them more susceptible to staining. Ask your child to rinse his mouth well after eating highly pigmented foods or beverages.

5)Injury / Trauma

Certain illness like hepatitis, recurrent high fever or trauma to the teeth that can cause tooth discolouration. Bleeding inside the tooth can made the dentin darker. A resorbing tooth can also be a different colour.

6)Prenatal / post birth conditions

Genetic disorders like enamel hypoplasia makes the enamel thinner or even missing and thus make the teeth look darker. Certain illness or poor nutrition prior to birth or during childhood can create a deficient enamel thus making the teeth prone to decay and staining. Jaundice in babies can make the teeth green or yellow tinted on eruption.

7)Use of medications

Use of certain meds like tetracycline by the expectant mother can cause discolouration of the child’s teeth.

Signs of tooth discolouration in children

Look for the following signs / colours to find out about your child’s tooth discolouration

  • If your child’s tooth appears brown. This could be due to drinking some dark beverage or tooth decay or due to iron supplements.
  • If your child’s tooth has white spots. This indicates early decay of the tooth.
  • If your child’s tooth appears red or blue. This  may be due to a pigmented food or injury to the tooth.
  • If your child’s tooth looks orange. This can be due to poor oral hygiene and chromogenic bacteria.
  • If your child’s teeth have black stains. This can be due to chromogenic bacteria (external) or injury to the tooth (internal).

Treatment of tooth discolouration in children

The treatment of a discoloured tooth in children depends on the cause of the discolouration. You can

  • Encourage your child towards good oral hygiene habits to maintain optimum oral health.
  • Ask your child to rinse his mouth well after eating heavy coloured food and beverages.
  • You can use adult toothpaste as they have better cleaning properties.
  • Discolouration due to trauma may be difficult to treat in kids. Consult your child’s pedodontist and discuss the causes and treatment outcomes of the tooth discolouration.
  • Your dentist or dental hygienist can do a scaling and polishing for your child to remove deposits or stains in the child’s mouth.

A word of caution-

Unsupervised or home bleaching should be avoided in the best interest of the child’s health. If you notice a discolouration in your kids mouth, get him evaluated by his pedodontist first. Discuss your concerns and the treatment options with him and proceed accordingly.