Why Are My Kid’s Teeth Yellow? Understanding Potential Causes of Discoloration

Have you noticed that your child’s teeth are looking a bit more yellow than you think they should? There are a few different reasons why your child’s teeth may look yellow or discolored. The team at We Care Dental Care is always happy to answer any questions you may have about your child’s dental health. 

1. Their Permanent Teeth Are Starting to Erupt

If your child is old enough to start getting their permanent teeth (usually age 6-7), you may notice that these teeth look a bit more yellow compared to their baby teeth. Don’t worry. This is normal.

There are a few reasons that permanent teeth may look yellow. First, they have more dentin (the yellowish second layer of the tooth) compared to baby teeth. The nerve canal is also larger when the tooth first erupts, and the enamel of the permanent teeth is more naturally transparent when they first emerge and replace the baby teeth. 

Combined, these factors can make it look like your child’s tooth is yellow or stained. But don’t worry. Over time, the enamel will harden and calcify, and as your child’s remaining baby teeth fall out and are replaced, their smile will become a consistent white color. 

2. Plaque & Tartar Are Building up Due to Inadequate Brushing

If your child’s teeth are not being brushed at least twice a day for 2+ minutes, bacteria-filled plaque and tartar (hardened and calcified plaque) can form on their teeth. Plaque can attract stains from foods and beverages, and tartar has a yellowish-brown color that may also discolor the teeth.

If you believe your child’s teeth may have excessive plaque and tartar buildup, they may have a higher risk of cavities. You need to see Dr. Benjamin Burkitt to have your child’s teeth cleaned and to learn more about how proper at-home oral care can prevent the buildup of plaque and bacteria. 

3. Their Teeth May Have Thin Enamel

A number of genetic factors can affect the formation of your child’s tooth enamel. If your child’s enamel is thinner or weaker than normal, their teeth may look yellow. This is because enamel is whitish in color, while the layer of dentin underneath the enamel looks much more yellow.

If the enamel is thin, the yellow dentin below it can show through more clearly, which will make your child’s teeth appear discolored. If you believe this to be the cause of your child’s stained teeth, you should see Dr. Burkitt right away. Children with weak enamel will require special care and attention to keep their teeth healthy and free of cavities and other complications. 

4. Their Teeth May Have Been Stained by Antibiotics Like Tetracycline 

This is very rare in the developed world, but it’s still worth discussing. Tetracycline and similar antibiotics were first used to fight bacterial infections in the 1950s. Since then, it has been discovered that tetracycline and a few related medications can cause permanent tooth staining when taken by women who are pregnant, or children under the ages of 8-12. 

What likely happens is the tetracycline binds to the hard tissues of the teeth. Then, when the tooth erupts, it causes a yellow discoloration that will eventually oxidize and turn brownish-gray. For this reason, pediatricians no longer administer this category of antibiotics to pregnant women or kids under the age of 12 in America.

5. Enamel Erosion

Enamel is the outer protective layer of teeth that gives them a white appearance. When enamel wears away, the dentin, which is a deep yellow or brownish material beneath the enamel, is exposed. This can cause teeth to look yellow. Enamel erosion can be caused by several factors, including acidic foods and drinks, brushing too hard, and grinding teeth.

6. Genetics

Did you know that yellow teeth can be genetic? Yes, it's true. While white is the most common color of teeth, other natural colors include reddish-brown, yellow, gray, and reddish-gray. Some children may have naturally yellow teeth due to their genetic makeup.

7. Poor Oral Hygiene

Another common cause of yellow teeth in children is inadequate oral hygiene. Failure to brush teeth regularly can result in the buildup of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth, turning them yellow. Over time, plaque can erode the enamel and cause cavities. If left unaddressed, plaque can even harden into tartar, which is even more difficult to remove and can contribute to gum disease.

8. Antibiotics

That's right, antibiotics can also cause yellow teeth in children. Tetracycline is a common antibiotic that, when taken in high doses during childhood, can stain the teeth as they emerge from the gums. This staining affects the formation of both enamel and dentin, leading to discoloration that can be difficult to reverse. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, if a mother takes antibiotics in the second half of her pregnancy, it can also affect the color of her child's teeth.

9. Traumatic Dental Injury

Traumatic injuries to teeth can come in many different forms, and one of the most common forms is a blow or fall that causes cracking or chipping of a tooth. These kinds of injuries can result in the yellowing of the affected tooth as it attempts to heal itself. The yellowing occurs when dentin within the tooth starts to build up or become exposed due to damage to the outer enamel layer on the crown of the tooth. 

10. Certain Foods

Certain beverages, such as soda, sports drinks, and fruit juice, are high in sugar and acid, which can erode the enamel on teeth and cause staining. Additionally, highly pigmented foods like berries, tomato sauce, and soy sauce can cause teeth to become discolored over time. It's important to limit children's intake of these foods and beverages and encourage them to practice good oral hygiene. 

11. Excess Exposure to Fluoride

Excess exposure to fluoride could also be the reason why your kids' teeth are yellow. Young children are prone to swallowing toothpaste, which contains fluoride, or drinking fluoridated water in excess, which can lead to dental fluorosis. It is, therefore, essential to supervise your kids when brushing their teeth and ensure they only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

Need Help With Yellow Teeth? Come To We Care Dental Care! 

At We Care Dental Care, Dr. Benjamin Burkitt can help you understand the cause of your child’s yellowed or discolored teeth, and explain your options for resolving the issue. To learn more and get started, just contact us at (540) 427-7274 for an appointment, or stop by our office at 3433 Orange Ave, NE Suite A1, Roanoke, VA 24012. 

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