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Why are my child’s adult teeth coming in yellow?

You may have noticed that when your child’s adult teeth begin to erupt, they come in darker and more yellow than baby teeth. Rest assured, this most likely isn’t because your child’s teeth are stained or that they’re doing a poor job brushing.

Why Are Permanent Teeth More Yellow Than Baby Teeth?

When your child is around five or six years old, their deciduous teeth – also known as baby teeth – begin to fall out and are replaced by permanent adult teeth. This is an important time in their development, and you may notice your little one’s once pearly whites are now growing in a darker shade. If this is the case, don’t panic.

Permanent adult teeth have more dentin and are naturally darker than baby teeth. Enamel is slightly translucent, so the color of the dentin may show through. Permanent teeth also have larger nerve canals, and the teeth are more transparent when they erupt. The new permanent adult teeth seem more yellow than primary teeth because you are comparing them with the smaller, lighter baby teeth still in your child’s mouth. Over time, your child will lose their baby teeth, and their permanent teeth will lighten in color and look more uniform.

Reasons Teeth May Appear Yellow That Are Not Related to Normal Development

Your child’s teeth discoloration or yellowness is most likely a normal part of their growth and development. However, there are some reasons why this may not always be the case. Other than the natural circumstances of normal development, here are some potential reasons why your child’s emerging teeth may appear darker or discolored.

Consuming Certain Foods and Drinks

What your child eats and drinks can affect their tooth color. Berries, tomatoes, and other highly pigmented items can stain teeth. Some fruit juices, sports drinks, and sodas can also stain teeth.

The degree of tooth staining depends on how long or how often teeth are exposed to these products. It is a good idea to have your child rinse with water after consuming heavily pigmented foods or acidic drinks.

Poor Dental Hygiene Can Lead to Plaque Buildup on the Teeth

Dr. Banks tells you to clean your teeth regularly for a reason. When kids don’t brush their teeth and floss thoroughly, bacteria may continue to build up and form plaque and tartar (hardened, calcified plaque). Plaque can be stained by beverages and foods, and tartar usually has a yellowish-brown color. If you see black,  that could be a sign of actual tooth decay.

Injury and Trauma

Accidents can happen at any moment. If your child falls or suffers a blow that damages a tooth, the blood vessels inside the tooth may break and make teeth appear yellow, brown, gray, or black. Accidents that damage the nerve in or near a tooth can also cause discoloration in children’s teeth. This discoloration forms within the tooth or teeth that the nerve is attached to. If your child has one tooth that is gray or yellow from trauma to the nerve, please call us immediately so we can take a look.

Supplements, Medications, and Antibiotics

Certain antibiotics like tetracycline can cause yellow stains in your child’s teeth if taken while pregnant or while your child is under the age of 8. The tetracycline binds to the teeth, and when they erupt, it begins to oxidize. It will initially look yellow but may eventually turn brown. Most doctors avoid prescribing tetracycline and similar antibiotics to women during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy or on children who are under eight years of age.

How to Treat Discolored Teeth

If your child’s teeth are yellow and you think it might be something more than normal development, schedule an appointment for an evaluation. After determining the cause of the discoloration, we may recommend an appropriate treatment plan.

Good oral hygiene is always crucial. Make sure your child is brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day. When your child starts taking care of their teeth at a young age, they build good dental habits that help them maintain a beautiful and healthy smile as they grow older. Also, make sure to keep up with regular dental checkups. We recommend scheduling a cleaning every six months. This gives us the chance to watch existing areas of concern and find any developing issues before they progress.

We do not recommend over-the-counter tooth whitening products for children until they have lost all their baby teeth. If you have any questions, we can discuss whitening treatments at your child’s next checkup.

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