Few things are more important to the long-term health and wellbeing of your child than their dental hygiene. If that sounds crazy, consider the fact that oral hygiene can lead to a variety of dental and non-dental conditions ranging from cavities and gum disease to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
That combined with the unsightly sight of yellowing teeth is more than enough incentive for you to figure out the cause and treat it.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at five of the most likely causes of yellowing teeth in children and what you can do about it.
1. Permanent Teeth
First, it’s worth noting that not every instance of yellowing teeth is a calamity or cause for concern. Adult teeth tend to be yellower than children’s teeth because they contain more dentin, which is the layer underneath the outer enamel of the tooth. This tends to be more yellowish, leading to yellower-looking teeth than baby teeth. In addition, adult enamel is more transparent, making the yellow even more evident.
Thankfully, none of this is anything to worry about. Your child’s teeth will naturally calcify over time, which in turn will lead to them appearing whiter. You and your child will simply have to deal with a yellower look as they first come in.
2. Antibiotics at a Young Age
We all know how important it is to get kids vaccinated and treated with antibiotics when they are sick, but the latter can, under a limited set of circumstances, lead to yellowing teeth. Specifically, antibiotics such as tetracycline can bind to children’s teeth, which in turn stains them and causes them to appear yellow. On the one hand, this typically only occurs with children under eight years old, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it for children older than that. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t annoying for parents of young children who don’t want to have to choose between getting their children the care they need and seeing their teeth turn yellow.
Thankfully, doctors are well aware of this side effect, which is why they typically do not prescribe antibiotics containing tetracycline to children younger than eight or to mothers who are pregnant, as this too can lead them to give birth to children with yellowish teeth. That said, some bottled and tap water contains tetracycline. Needless to say, you’ll want to be vigilant and look out for bottled water that contains this. It’s also another good reason to get a water purifier for your kitchen if possible.
Still, on the whole this is a relatively mild, easily avoided and, if necessary, easily fixed cause of yellowing teeth in young children.
3. Plaque Buildup
This is by far the most common cause of yellowing teeth in both children and adults. It’s also probably the first cause that came to your mind. Candy and soda may taste great, but they can slowly turn your teeth yellow if you let plaque build up over time. In addition, sugary foods can also cause a buildup of tartar, which is a hardened, more calcified form of plaque.
Thankfully, this is yet another cause of yellowing teeth that is pretty easy to solve – brush! You should already be teaching your children to brush their teeth at least twice a day, and this is one of the big reasons why. It is also something you will want to share with your children. While you don’t want to unnecessarily scare them about plaque buildup or yellowing teeth, gently informing them of the potential consequences of not brushing can make it clearer to them why it is so important that they keep up their brushing habits. Make sure your child brushes their teeth at least twice per day. Remember to make sure that they are brushing not just their few frontmost teeth but their entire smile, top to bottom, back to front, and everywhere in between.
Of course, even the most rigorous routine brushing is unlikely to get the most hardened and stubborn plaque and tartar buildup, which is why it is so important to visit a dentist at least once or twice per year for a professional cleaning.
4. Genetic Issues
If you have had issues with your own teeth yellowing, there is a chance you could potentially pass that on to your children. You may have a genetic predisposition to weak enamel, for example, which your children might then inherit. Enamel is the outermost layer of your teeth, so weaker enamel can prove more revealing which, in turn, can cause your teeth to show up as yellower. By contrast, as mentioned above, thicker enamel can shield your child’s teeth, which in turn can help ensure they appear white.
If your child has inherited weaker enamel, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about ways in which their enamel can be strengthened, which can make their teeth stronger, healthier and, yes, whiter.
5. Fluoride and Tooth Trauma
One of the biggest reasons people have sought water filters for years has been fluoride. While its dangers are sometimes overblown, one potential side effect of excessive ingestion to fluoride is yellowing teeth as the enamel is damaged in a process known as fluorosis. Thankfully, scary as this sounds, it doesn’t happen overnight, so you have plenty of time in which to catch and reverse it.
More problematic can be if your child’s teeth have suffered trauma. This can include chipped and cracked teeth, though the range of potential tooth trauma is quite wide. Whatever the source of the damage, the effect is typically the same – damage to the tooth’s root, nerve, enamel, or a combination of all three that results in yellowing. Trauma severe enough to result in yellowing and damage as extensive as this typically requires immediate assistance from a dentist.
By identifying the cause of your child’s yellowing teeth, you can get it treated as quickly as possible and restore the bright white smile they need and deserve.