Discolored Teeth In Child: Causes, Treatment, Remedies And Prevention

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Sometimes, your child’s teeth may change color to creamy ivory or yellow or even dark (brown or gray). Not all changes in the teeth color indicate a problem. But as a parent, it is good to know about discolored teeth in kids.

In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the reasons for the discoloration of teeth in children and how to address it.

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.

  1. 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).
  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).
  1. 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).
  1. 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).
  1. 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).
  1. 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).
  1. Poor dental hygiene: Not brushing or flossing regularly might stain teeth and cause tooth discoloration (7).
  1. 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.

[Read: Bruxism In Kids]

What Does The Teeth Stain Color Mean?

The common tooth stain colors are yellow, black, blue, brown, and gray (9).  Below are the common factors or reasons that may lead to the development of stains (1). 

  • 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.

[Read: Hyperdontia In Children]

Natural Remedies For Teeth Whitening For Children

If the discoloration is mild and not due to any medical condition, then you may try these home remedies (15) (16):

  • 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 (17).

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.

[Read: Tooth Decay In Children]

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.

  1. 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 (10).
  2. 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 (11).
  3. 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 (12).
  4. 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 (13).
  5. 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 (14).

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. 

Tooth discoloration in children is usually not a serious condition. The staining is often temporary. Visiting your dentist regularly and following oral hygiene can help your child keep their teeth white.

Do you have any home remedies to share? Write to us in the comment section.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Manuel ST, Abhishek P, and Kundabala M; Etiology of tooth discoloration – a review; Nigerian Dental Association (2010)
2. Tetracycline; C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital Michigan Medicine
3. Fluoride and Children; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
4. O. Ibiyemi, T. S. Ibiyemi, and J. O. Taiwo; Pattern of tooth discolorationand care-seeking behavior among adolescents in an undeserved rural community in Nigeria; European Journal of General Dentistry (2017)
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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