My daughter is six years old and has lost all of her front baby teeth. Now that most of her adult teeth are growing in, we are really stressing the importance of flossing every day. This past weekend, while looking in the mirror, she asked me, “Why are my big kid teeth so yellow?”
Don’t get me wrong. Her smile is beautiful. However, compared to her shiny white baby teeth, her permanent teeth do appear darker and a bit more yellow. She’s noticed this, and I bet some more kids around her age have noticed this about their teeth, too.
We get this question all the time from concerned parents. Believe it or not, it is perfectly normal. Adult teeth, because of their composition, do have a different tone than baby teeth and often appear yellow, especially when they erupt right next to brilliant white baby teeth.
Young adult teeth, when they first come in, have a larger proportion of nerve in them, compared to when the child is 17 or 18. The large amount of nerve, and the fact that the tooth is hollower and less dense, gives it a yellow appearance. As the healthy teeth age, the nerve shrinks and the tooth thickens from the inside, giving it a whiter appearance.
Adult teeth also have more dentin in them, which has a dark yellow to brownish hue. When the tooth’s enamel is thin, the yellow color from the dentin shows through more.
So what can you do to whiten your kid’s teeth and should you?
Good oral hygiene is the key. Regular brushing and flossing and good dental habits will usually resolve these issues in time. As the child’s tooth grows and thickens, it will lose some of the yellow hue caused by the nerve and dentin showing through the enamel. However, regular brushing and flossing will keep the plaque at bay and the tooth and gums healthy.
Use a spinbrush at home. Sometimes these brushes can be more efficient for children than simply brushing, as they are able to get into the crevices better. Often, it just makes brushing more appealing to young children and will encourage them to brush more, helping to remove surface stains. You can find inexpensive options in nearly every store.
Encourage a Tooth-Friendly Diet. Avoiding sugary and carbonated drinks, as well as sodas, coffees and teas will help avoid staining. Also, highly acidic foods and sour candies can erode the enamel on teeth. The enamel acts as a protective barrier and helps keep teeth white. Thin or eroded enamel will lead to discolored teeth, as the dentin and nerves will be more visible.
Remember, slightly yellow-appearing permanent teeth are different from very stained or discolored teeth, or those with white or brown spots on them. Dark staining and/or spots can be a sign of a medical problem and needs to be evaluated by your dentist.
At this age, we typically do not recommend whitening treatments or products for most children, as time typically resolves the issue. However, if your child’s teeth are stained, have spots on them, or cause your child stress or embarrassment, please come in to see us, as we can evaluate his or her teeth to rule out any medical reasons for the discoloration and also discuss safe and effective whitening methods.
As always, Anderson Pediatric Dentistry is always available to discuss your questions and concerns regarding your child’s dental health. We want all children to have a smile they can be proud of and to give all our parents and kids Something to Smile About!