Tooth discoloration is a common reason that parents bring their children in for a dental exam. During check-ups, we often hear parents ask, why are my son’s teeth so yellow? Is it normal for teeth to be yellow? Am I doing something wrong? The answer is, not necessarily! Parents do typically associate yellow teeth with dental problems. They’re not wrong to be concerned. In many cases, tooth discoloration is a fairly good indicator that there might be an issue. When it comes to young children, there are many reasons for yellowed teeth that may not occur in adults. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons why children’s teeth yellow after they come in.
1. Enamel Defect: Enamel Hypoplasia/Hypoplastic Teeth
Enamel hypoplasia is a defect that occurs while a child’s teeth are developing. It is different from hereditary hypoplasia because it is caused by outside factors, not the child’s genes. This enamel damage can be caused by prematurity, infection, injury, poor diet, chemical exposure, and poor nutrition. The enamel fails to form properly, leaving the teeth vulnerable to staining, sensitivity, and cavities. Sometimes this damage is in a single tooth. Other times, it can impact a child’s whole mouth.
2. Hereditary Hypoplasia
The effects of hereditary hypoplasia are the same as those caused by enamel hypoplasia. The difference between them is important. Hereditary hypoplasia should be addressed as early as possible because it’s not preventable. Parents who have hereditary hypoplasia should inform their child’s dentist and watch their kids for signs of yellowing, sensitivity, and cavities. They may need dental treatments designed to support their enamel to reduce their chances of cavities and discoloration.
3. Dental Hygiene: Plaque and Tarter
Poor dental hygiene is a common cause of children’s yellow teeth. Building consistent dental habits in children can be difficult, but they are especially important in keeping their mouths healthy. If kids do not brush and floss regularly, plaque will begin to build up on their teeth. Over time, that plaque can harden into tartar, which is difficult to remove. Both of these materials can make teeth appear more yellow. Have kids brush at least two times per day and help them floss regularly. This will reduce plaque build-up.
It’s also important to cut back on sugary foods, soda, sugary drinks, and candies. Sugar is the favorite meal of the most harmful bacteria in your child’s mouth. Combined with infrequent brushing and you are guaranteed to see cavities and yellowing.
4. The Grown-Up Teeth Have Arrived
If you have young kids who are shedding teeth like sharks, you might be asking yourself, why are my child’s permanent teeth yellow? Parents often panic when their children begin to lose their baby teeth and the adult teeth that emerge appear yellow. After all, these are fresh, new teeth. Surely they couldn’t have damaged them already. Do not fret. Permanent teeth coming in discolored is not an indicator that your child will have permanent yellow teeth.
The layer beneath a tooth’s enamel is called dentin. Dentin is yellowish in color and the enamel of your kid’s brand-new teeth is pretty thin. You may have noticed that the base of your child’s tooth (closest to the gum line) is more yellow than the end of the tooth. That is one of the surest signs that your kid’s yellow teeth are a result of thinned enamel and enthusiastic dentin.
Your child’s teeth will calcify as they emerged. That is why the edge of the tooth is whiter than the base. Over time, their color will become the shiny white smile you expected (provided your child is not dealing with some of the other issues mentioned here).
Medication can also cause a problem for children’s teeth: yellow or even grey discoloration. It is typically a side effect of antibiotics. Children who receive particularly strong antibiotics before they reach 8 years old are particularly vulnerable to very yellow teeth or other discoloration. Medications taken during pregnancy can also cause a child’s teeth to come in with yellow discoloration.
What Can You Do to Help Your Child’s Yellow Teeth?
We’ve touched on a few ways to help your child prevent yellow teeth where possible. Now we will take a quick dive into steps you can take to correct them if they are already yellow.
Enlist the help of your dentist. The best way to start tackling discoloration is to get your dentist involved. They can help you determine the cause and seek appropriate treatment.
Brush your child’s teeth two times per day with fluoride toothpaste. Help them floss daily to remove what the toothbrush cannot. Supervise older children to make sure they are brushing properly. Don’t fall for the wet toothbrush trick. Your kids may not realize it now, but they will be thanking you later.
Schedule regular cleanings. A professional cleaning performed by an experienced hygienist can go a long way toward keeping plaque and tartar at bay. Cleanings allow your hygienist to provide additional fluoride treatments or other enhanced measures. Your pediatric dentist can also monitor progress or deterioration and help you take increased steps.
Consider whitening solutions for older children. Once your children have lost all of their baby teeth and have reached the appropriate age, you can talk to your dentist about whitening solutions. You can purchase over-the-counter whitening toothpaste, as well. It is especially important to talk with your dentist before using stronger products. Remember, some discoloration is caused by damaged enamel, and you don’t want to cause unnecessary pain or create more issues.
Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out
If you’ve noticed discoloration in your child’s teeth, don’t be embarrassed about scheduling a dentist appointment. That’s true even if the yellowing is caused by less-than-stellar brushing habits. We can help you get back on track and even give you an assist in helping your kids become enthusiastic brushers. Give us a call today to set up your child’s exam!