Tooth discoloration in children is a common dental concern where a child’s tooth or teeth lose their natural white hue, turning creamy ivory, yellow, brown, or gray. Change in tooth color can be worrisome for parents. However, rest assured that not all tooth or teeth color changes indicate a problem. Yet, being a parent, knowing about tooth discoloration in detail can end your apprehensions and help you stay informed about the various reasons for a child’s tooth or teeth to change color. Read this post as we share with you the possible causes of tooth discoloration, its treatment, and effective prevention.
Possible Causes Of Tooth Discoloration In Children
It could be either intrinsic (color deposited within inner layers of a tooth) or extrinsic (color on the tooth surface) discoloration (1). Several factors and conditions could cause the discoloration of the teeth.
- Genetics: Genetics and hereditary defects in dentin formation or enamel could be responsible for intrinsic tooth discoloration. It means that the child will naturally develop yellow, yellow-brown, or blue-brown teeth, depending on the genetic defect (1).
- Antibiotics: Some antibiotics can cause permanent discoloration of a child’s teeth. For instance, the antibiotic tetracycline can cause tooth discoloration when taken by children below the age of eight years (2).
- Fluoride: Excess exposure to fluoride through toothpaste or drinking water with high fluoride content may cause discoloration of the teeth. Fluoride can result in brown spots on the enamel. This condition is called dental fluorosis (3).
- Enamel defect: Sometimes, there could be a defect in the formation of enamel, which is the outermost layer of a tooth. Such defects can cause intrinsic staining of the teeth. An example of such a defect is enamel hypoplasia that causes tooth discoloration (4).
- Dental injury: Traumatic injury may cause discoloration of the teeth due to bleeding or due to exposure of dental tissue. Injuries may cause the teeth to become dark gray, yellow, or pink based on the injury (5).
- Food: Some foods with natural color may stain the teeth temporarily. Examples of such foods are tomato and soy sauce, candies, berries, chocolate, pickles, and beets (6).
- Poor dental hygiene: Not brushing or flossing regularly might stain teeth and cause tooth discoloration (7).
- Others: There can be miscellaneous reasons for discoloration. For instance, children with asthma, who use inhalers regularly, may have discolored teeth. Frequent dental fillings may also cause the teeth to become discolored (8).
The different causes of discoloration of teeth leave stains of different colors. It is good to understand the various colors of tooth stains.]
What Does The Teeth Stain Color Mean?
- Yellow or yellowish-brown: Medications, traumatic injuries, intra-canal medicaments, and enamel defects may be responsible for causing yellow, yellowish-green, or yellowish-brown discoloration.
- Red or reddish-brown: It may be caused due to diseases like congenital erythropoietic porphyria (rare metabolic disease).
- Orange, orangish-red, or pink: Some of the factors causing such discoloration include chromogenic bacteria (due to poor oral hygiene), root canal cement, or traumatic injuries.
- Green or bluish-green: Children using products with nickel and copper may develop such color. Teeth infected by chromogenic bacteria may also result in such discoloration.
- Gray or grayish-black: These colors could be a result of specific materials such as silver nitrate, lead, or mercury used in dental treatments.
- Black: Iron supplementation, medications, and different materials used in the root canal therapy are a few factors that may cause black stains.
Natural Remedies For Teeth Whitening For Children
- Lemon mixed with salt or lemon peel with salt and baking soda can help in whitening teeth. This blend can be applied to the teeth and then brushed. You may also mash the lemon peel, mix it with salt, water, and baking soda and use it as toothpaste.
- As per a research study, orange peel extracts are known to be useful as teeth whiteners. Rubbing the teeth with dried orange peels may help in whitening the teeth.
- Oil pulling is swirling the oil in the mouth to rinse the teeth. Oil pulling can be done with extra virgin coconut oil to whiten teeth. However, research doesn’t specify its effectiveness for kids (12).
Natural remedies may or may not work. If the discoloration of your child’s teeth is severe, lasts for several weeks, and is accompanied by other gum or teeth problems, then promptly see a dentist.
Treatment For Discolored Teeth In Children
The treatment of discolored teeth depends on the extent of discoloration. If the dentist/doctor can identify the cause, then they might recommend controlling or curing it. For instance, if teeth discoloration is due to an ailment, then the doctor will aim to cure the condition so that discolored teeth are treated as well.
A dentist may suggest restoring the teeth to the original color through any of the following methods.
- Composite resins: These are paste-like resins applied to the discolored sections of a tooth to restore the color. The restoration with resins could be partial or complete, depending on the extent of tooth discoloration (13).
- Teeth whitening strips: A strip of gauze soaked in hydrogen peroxide and placed on the discolored tooth may help restore normal color. This process may require multiple sittings (14).
- Dental bleach: A dentist could use a wide variety of compounds to bleach the discolored teeth. The bleaching substance and method of bleaching depend on the color and extent of the stains (15).
- Dental bonding: In this cosmetic treatment process, the dentist applies dental repair material on the discolored tooth and then treats it with UV light or heat. It makes the dental repair material to stick to the teeth, thus covering the discolored section of the teeth (16).
- Whitening agents: If the discoloration is minimal, then the dentist may prescribe whitening rinses, chewing gums, whitening floss, and gels for use at home. Such substances should be used only on the dentist’s advice (17).
Ways To Prevent Tooth Discoloration In Children
Following some simple measures and habits may help prevent stains on a child’s teeth.
- Encourage children to practice oral hygiene for whiter and healthier teeth. Brushing, flossing, and rinsing everyday helps in fighting plaque.
- Limit juices, candies, and sugary foods to prevent stains by minimizing the risk of cavities. Some other foods that may cause staining are berries, tomato sauce, beets, and grapes (18). A child should rinse their mouth with water after eating these foods to prevent extrinsic stains.
- Foods rich in vitamin C may whiten teeth. Strawberry, broccoli, kiwi, and whole-grain may also help (19).
- Consuming adequate water may rinse off the bacteria and protect the teeth. It may even improve saliva production.
- Drinking beverages with straws may help avoid staining of teeth.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine checkups with the dentist and dental cleaning once in six months. It can help keep teeth healthy and white.
Discolored teeth in children isn’t a serious dental problem. Hereditary defects in dentin formation, using antibiotics, and exposure to fluoride through toothpaste and drinking water are some of its common causes. When a tooth gets discolored, it can have stains of different shades, such as black, green, yellow, and grey. Depending on the severity of discoloration, lemon and salt mixture application and oil pulling are a few natural home remedies that might lighten stains. Maintaining optimum oral hygiene, consuming enough water, and visiting dentists regularly are simple ways to prevent stains on a child’s teeth.
2. Tetracycline; C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital Michigan Medicine
3. Fluoride and Children; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
4. Sheenam Kansal et al.Discoloration of Teeth: A Literature Review;International Journal of Health and Clinical Research (2020).
5. S. K. Panchal; Tooth discoloration after traumatic injury: A diagnostic challenge; Oral Health and Dental Management
6. What causes discolored teeth and is there any way to cure or prevent staining?; Tufts University (2016)
7. Oral Health; California Childcare Health Program the University of California (2006)
8. Childhood Tooth Discoloration: Why Is Your Child’s Tooth Changing Color?; Apollo Dental
9. M. Baharvand; Colors in tooth discoloration: A new classification and literature review; International Journal of Clinical Dentistry (2014)
10. A. Wray and R. Welbury; Treatment of intrinsic discoloration in permanent anterior teeth in children and adolescents
11. K. Donly; Tooth Whitening in Children and Adolescents; Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry (2005)
12. Policy on the Use of Dental Bleaching for Children and Adolescent Patient; The Reference Manual of Pediatric Dentistry (2019)
13. Dental Bonding; Cleveland Clinic
14. F. F. Demarco, S. S. Meireles, and A. S. Maso; Over-the-counter whitening agents: a concise review; Ethestic Dentistry(2009)
15. A. Maria; Home remedies for white teeth
16. F. Pratiwi et al.; Citric acid compounds of tangerines peel extract (Citrus reticulata) as potential materials teeth whitening; Journal of Physics (2016)
17. V. Saravanan et al.; Effects of Coconut and Olive Oil on Tooth and Restoration – in vitro study – Myth(oil)ogy?; Journal of Academy of Dental Education (2018)
18. Healthy teeth; University of Maryland
19. The best foods for a healthy smile and whole body; College of Dentistry (2018)
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Dr. Shailesh Shenoy(MDS)
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