Have you noticed that your child’s teeth aren’t looking as white as they should? It can be alarming to notice signs of discoloration in your child’s smile. There are many different reasons why children might have yellowed or discolored teeth, so it’s important to figure out the cause before attempting a solution. Keep reading to learn more about why your child might develop tooth stains, and find out how you can treat these stains and prevent them from returning.
Seven Reasons Behind Tooth Discoloration in Children
Fluoride is an essential mineral that helps reduce tooth decay and can strengthen tooth enamel. It’s a natural ingredient in a variety of foods and drinks, including the water supply. However, it’s possible for infants and young children to receive too much fluoride.
If you frequently mix powdered or liquid baby formula with fluoridated water, it’s possible for your child to develop fluorosis. This condition occurs due to overexposure to fluoride, and you might notice white lines, streaks, or brown spots on your child’s teeth.
Not Brushing Properly
Inadequate brushing habits are a common cause of tooth discoloration and stains in children. If your child doesn’t properly care for their baby teeth, plaque bacteria can quickly accumulate, leading to stains and discoloration. Plaque can adhere to stains from foods and drinks, and it can quickly develop into a hardened deposit called plaque, which is typically brown or yellow in color.
Taking Certain Medications
Medications or supplements containing iron can cause dark stains to develop on your child’s teeth. Antibiotics and antihistamines can also discolor your child’s teeth, leading to yellow or gray stains. Mothers who take antibiotics during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, particularly tetracycline, can increase their child’s risk of having discolored or stained teeth.
If your child sustains a tooth injury, blood vessels within the center of the tooth can rupture. This can make your child’s teeth appear black, gray, yellow, or brown in color. A tooth that suddenly appears much darker in comparison to the surrounding teeth can indicate tooth trauma or injury.
Medical Conditions or Illness
If your child was born with a condition called hyperbilirubinemia, a medical condition that develops when bilirubin levels in the blood are too high, they may have teeth that appear green or yellow in color. And, although rare in children, stained teeth can also be a sign of jaundice.
Genetic factors that negatively affect the development of tooth enamel are another cause of tooth discoloration in children. This can lead to tooth enamel that is weaker or thinner than normal, which may expose the dentin layer underneath. As a result, your child’s teeth may appear yellow in color.
Your child’s diet can also contribute to tooth staining. If your child drinks a lot of acidic beverages or frequently consumes foods and drinks high in sugar, such as soda, popsicles, and juices, they’re at a greater risk of developing tooth stains. Acidic drinks and foods can gradually wear away tooth enamel. This can result in dull, discolored teeth that appear yellow or gray. Sugary foods and drinks can also increase your child’s risk of developing tooth decay, which can cause teeth to appear brown or dark in color.
How You Can Safely Remove Tooth Stains in Children
Once you notice tooth stains and discoloration on your child’s teeth, the first step is scheduling an appointment with a pediatric dentist. After thoroughly examining your child’s teeth, the dentist can determine if there are any serious or chronic conditions that might explain why your child’s teeth are discolored.
Most pediatric dentists recommend avoiding over-the-counter whitening products and in-office whitening treatments until all of your child’s permanent teeth have erupted. Although these guidelines can vary, it’s suggested that parents wait until their child is a teenager before they receive professional bleaching treatments.
In some cases, veneers may be considered a treatment option. This is especially true for children and teens who have deep stains that occurred from antibiotic use and other dark stains that won’t respond to other whitening treatments. Veneers work by covering the teeth, but they require consistent upkeep. For this reason, they are not an ideal option for most children.
Techniques That Prevent Tooth Stains in Kids
There are several ways for you to prevent tooth stains and brighten your child’s teeth at home. Take a look at these easy-to-follow tips:
Prioritize Good Oral Hygiene
Ensuring that your child brushes and flosses every day is a simple way to prevent the accumulation of food stains and plaque. Encourage brushing at least twice a day, preferably in the morning and before bed. In addition to preventing stains from forming, this healthy practice will also improve mild tooth stains over time. To prevent fluorosis, ensure that younger children are using a small smear of fluoride toothpaste.
Try to get your children to brush within one hour of eating or drinking anything that’s high in sugar or highly acidic. Doing so protects tooth enamel erosion and can reduce their risk of tooth decay, both of which can contribute to tooth stains. It’s also a good idea to have your child brush their teeth if they take any supplements or vitamins, especially iron.
Encourage Healthy Eating
Provide your child with a variety of fruits and vegetables to eat, such as celery, apples, pears, and carrots. In addition to being healthy, these types of hard, crunchy fruits and vegetables can help scrub the surface of teeth while you’re eating them.
It’s also important to limit any foods or drinks that are high in sugar or are very acidic since they can stain teeth and weaken tooth enamel. This includes soda, most types of candy, juices, popsicles, and dried fruits. It can also be helpful to model healthy eating habits to set a good example.
If your child is showing signs of tooth discoloration, or if they are overdue for a dental exam and checkup, make your appointment today.