Why Are My Child's Teeth Yellow?

Some parents have recently asked the question, “Why have my child's teeth begun to turn yellow.” Drs. James and Samuel Owens explain that there are several reasons this may occur.

Let’s break it down into two categories –

#1 – Adult teeth are more yellow than baby teeth regardless of extenuating circumstances.

#2 – Extenuating circumstances could cause teeth to turn yellow.

Let’s talk about #1 first. Many parents ask why their children's adult teeth are more yellow than the baby teeth. Many times it doesn't have anything to do with their health or hygiene. In general adult teeth are more yellow than baby teeth. This is due to the structure of the teeth. There is more yellow dentin inside permanent teeth which makes it more visible through the enamel. Whereas, in baby teeth there is less dentin and more enamel making the shade of the teeth lighter. This is most noticeable when children are in the transition stage and have both permanent and baby teeth.

And now let’s look at extenuating circumstances. Many things can cause your child’s tooth discoloration, and treatment depends on what the cause of yellow teeth is. There are the obvious reasons from food and drink stains, poor dental hygiene to accidents involving the mouth. And then there are the not so obvious reasons like chemical elements and genetics. We’re outlining a slew of common culprits that can cause your child’s teeth to turn yellow along with a possible solution.

Food and Drink

Fact: Food and drink like blueberries, cherries, soda or soy sauce, will result in yellow tooth staining. The degree of tooth staining in children depends on how long or regularly they partake in these products, as well as if the enamel was still forming when they started consuming them.

Fix: Encourage your child to rinse with water after they eat highly pigmented foods or drink acidic or colored beverages.

Dental Hygiene

Fact: If your child is not brushing regularly in order to remove plaque and staining, naturally this can cause teeth to discolor.

Fix: Teach your child to brush twice a day to avoid their teeth becoming yellow.

Fluoride

Fact: In Oklahoma, 62.2% of our tap water contains fluoride.  If a child ingests too much fluoride during the tooth-forming years, the fluoride damages the enamel-forming cells, resulting in a mineralization disorder that increases the sub-surface enamel. This porous surface causes the teeth to turn a dingy yellow. Sometimes the teeth will turn a gray color.

Fix: Check with your local water source and find out what the percentage of fluoride is in your tap water. If the levels exceed 20%, consider a fluoride-free bottled water during your child’s tooth forming years.

Tetracycline

Fact: Believe it or not, some tap and bottled waters contain traces of Tetracycline. Tetracycline is an antibiotic medication.  Typically, this is contained in cold medication. The enamel staining may affect the entire tooth, or it may affect patches, lines or ribbons of the tooth. This depends on the duration of the exposure and what part of the tooth's enamel was being formed during that time. These stains are impossible to remove without using bleaching techniques.

Fix: Check with your pediatrician about prescribing an alternative to Tetracycline, especially if your child is less than eight years of age,

Tooth Trauma

Fact: Accidents happen and sometimes it can affect your child’s teeth. Accidents that damage the nerve in or near a tooth may cause yellow staining in a child’s teeth. The stain only forms within the tooth or teeth that the nerve is attached to.

Fix: If your child has one tooth that is gray or yellow from trauma to the nerve, you should take your child to the dentist immediately. Whitening may temporarily whiten the outside of the tooth, but the inside of the tooth needs professional attention.

Genetic Disorders

Fact: A child diagnosed with dentinogenesis imperfecta, an inherited condition from a parent, will have yellowed teeth. 

Fix: Seek medical advice to diagnose and manage this condition.

Starting your child off with a good dental hygiene routine is a great way to ward off most causes of yellow teeth. Call Drs. James and Samuel Owens office today 918.455.7700 if you have any concerns about your child’s teeth!