Our kids' teeth often fascinate us because they have whiter and brighter teeth compared to our teeth. It’s because baby teeth, also called milk or primary teeth, have a thinner and whiter top layer (called enamel) than permanent teeth, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
If you notice, however, that your child’s teeth aren’t as pearly white as they used to be, there could be a problem. Here are common causes of tooth discoloration in kids:
1. Plaque build-up “If your child's teeth look yellow or orange, it's most likely because they aren't being cleaned thoroughly and have developed a build-up of plaque that is stained with food debris,” pediatric dentist Dr. Fred Ferguson to BabyCenter. Plaque can also harden into tartar and collect below the gum line and on the surface of the teeth. Tartar is yellow or brown in color, and is only completely removed with a trip to the dentist for a cleaning.
“[Plaque stains] are not necessarily an indication of tooth decay, but letting plaque accumulate on the teeth can cause gum disease and it's not a good habit to get into,” said Dr. Ferguson.
2. White spot lesions and tooth decay Too much sweets and sugary drinks like juice and soda can definitely discolor your child's teeth and eventually lead to decay. Cavities, or dental caries, is a common cause of discoloration in primary teeth, Dr. Georgina Remulla, one of the directors of the Philippine Pediatric Dental Society, Inc. (PPDSI), told Smart Parenting.
The first stage of dental caries is white spot lesions (WSL) which appear as white, chalky lines or spots on the surface of a tooth. So yes, WSL also blemish your child’s teeth, and over time, will turn into the even more worrying shade of brown or yellow color of tooth decay.
A cavity will require a trip to the dentist, but WSL, or the decalcification of teeth, can be reversed with brushing. “Decalcifications are still reversible through thorough tooth brushing using fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoride is the best protection against dental cavities. With proper care, brushing can avoid WSL from progressing into early childhood caries,” Dr. Carina De los Reyes, former president of PPDSI, told Smart Parenting. Once your child’s teeth get back the calcium and minerals they need, the white spots should slowly disappear.
3. Vitamins Here’s something that parents might not expect. Multivitamin supplements containing iron can cause dark stains on your child’s pearly whites. Mayo Clinic explains it’s the liquid form of iron, in particular, that stain teeth. If you give your child’s vitamins with a dropper, you can try avoiding the teeth by placing the dose on her tongue and follow with water, said Mayo Clinic.
If your child’s teeth are already stained, “iron stains can be removed through oral prophylaxis by a dentist,” said Dr. Remulla. Make an appointment to get your child’s teeth cleaned and ask the dentist for advice on how to prevent iron stains in the future. A mom on What to Expect was advised to try brushing her child’s teeth with baking soda on a damp cloth. “I noticed [good] results within the first two days,” she said.
4. Tooth injury A bruise causes the skin to turn shades of bluish purple and yellowish green. Trauma to a tooth, like when your child’s teeth are injured from a fall, can also cause discoloration, said Dr. Remulla.
If you notice that one or more of her teeth has turned darker after an accident, take your child to a dentist as soon as possible. An examination will be able to tell the extent of the trauma, like if the tooth is still alive or if there’s bleeding from within the tooth. “The dentist will decide the best option for the tooth and the child,” she said.
Dr. Carina De Los Reyes holds clinic at St. Luke's Medical Center (401-0335), Quezon City; The Medical City (988-1000 local 5165) and at #33 Sta Catalina St. (631-4932) in Pasig City.
Dr. Georgina Remulla holds clinic at #1215 Acacia Avenue, Ayala Alabang (850-4260), Muntinlupa City; and #110 Amorsolo Street, Legaspi Village (892-4758), Makati City.