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

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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 or tooth color changes indicate a problem. 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.

In This Article

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 defectiXAn inherited medical disorder caused by an abnormality in the genes An example of an inherited tooth condition is Amelogenesis imperfecta. (1).
  1. Antibiotics: Some antibiotics can cause permanent discoloration of a child’s teeth. For instance, the antibiotic tetracyclineiXAn oral antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections and respiratory tract infections is tooth discoloration caused by the antibiotic tetracycline when it is taken by children below the age of eight years (2).
Tetracycline can cause teeth discoloration

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Fluoride: Excess exposure to fluorideiXA naturally occurring mineral found in rocks, soil, and water and used to prevent tooth decay 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).
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Fluorosis occurs in the first eight years of life when the child’s outer enamel is still growing (20).
  1. Enamel defect: Sometimes, there could be a defect in the formation of enamel, which is the outermost layer of a tooth. Such defects in tooth development can cause intrinsic staining of the teeth. One example of enamel defects is enamel hypoplasiaiXA dental defect where the enamel has not formed correctly or is absent which 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).
Some berries may cause discolored teeth in children

Image: IStock

  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.]

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, intracanal medicamentsiXMedical supplements used to eliminate bacteria or inflammation after canal instrumentation , and enamel defects may be responsible for causing yellow, yellowish-green, or yellowish-brown discoloration.
Enamel deffects may cause yellow teeth in children

Image: Shutterstock

  • Red or reddish-brown: It may be caused due to diseases like congenital erythropoietic porphyriaiXA rare, inherited disorder found among infants and characterized by blistering and breaking of skin surfaces (rare metabolic disease).
  • Orange, orangish-red, or pink: Some of the factors causing such discoloration include chromogenic bacteriaiXA type of bacteria responsible for brownish or black stains on the teeth of children (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.

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A study suggests that secondhand smoke exposure after birth may increase the risk of dental issues in children (21).

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 (10) (11):

  • 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.

According to Dr. Scott Cardall, orthodontist from Orem, Utah, “Baking soda only helps remove stains externally from teeth but is ineffective in bleaching the interior of teeth. A few active ingredients, generally with hydrogen peroxide or its derivatives like carbamide peroxide, will bleach teeth internally.”

  • 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.
Orange peels may help manage discolored teeth in children

Image: IStock

  • 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.

  1. Composite resins: These are paste-like resins applied to the discolored sections of a tooth to restore the color. The restoration with this composite bonding process could be partial or complete, depending on the extent of tooth discoloration (13).
  2. Teeth whitening strips: A strip of gauze soaked in hydrogen peroxideiXA chemical compound usually used as a bleaching agent or an antiseptic and placed on the discolored tooth may help restore normal color. This process may require multiple sittings (14).
  3. Dental bleach: A dentist could use various compounds to bleach discolored teeth. The bleaching substance and method of bleaching depend on the color and extent of the stains (15).
protip_icon Experts say
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, you may use at-home bleaching products for children. These products have lower hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxideiXA medication composed of urea and hydrogen peroxide used to loosen ear wax, whiten teeth, and clean wounds concentrations, reducing the risk of dental bleaching side effects (12).
  1. 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 stick to the teeth, thus covering the discolored section of the teeth (16).
  2. Whitening agents: If the discoloration is minimal, then the dentist may prescribe tooth 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.
Straws may help prevent discoloration of teeth in children

Image: IStock

  • 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 dentiniXA layer of yellowish tissue located below the enamel to support its structure formation, using antibiotics, drinking colored beverages, 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the long-term effects of discolored teeth in children?

Discoloration of teeth is a significant cosmetic problem that can affect an individual’s attractiveness and psychosocial appeal. This is especially true when an anterior tooth discoloration affects their smile and self-esteem, causing anxiety (22). In addition, discoloration is linked with dental conditions, such as gum and tooth decay, cavities, and gingivitis, which impact overall dental and oral health in the long term (23).

2. Which toothpaste is best for preventing discolored teeth in children?

Children can use American Dental Association-approved fluoride toothpaste in minute quantities to avoid dental problems (24). Also, the toothpaste should be gentle and have a low fluoride content. In addition, if they have been diagnosed with tooth discoloration due to fluoride, it is best to use American Dental Association-approved non-fluoride toothpaste in the same quantity.

3. Is there a link between discolored baby teeth and discolored permanent teeth?

No, there is no link. If your child takes good care of their teeth, there’s no need to worry. This kind of discoloration is normal and happens because adult teeth have more of a dense inner tissue called dentin compared to baby teeth. The outer surface of the teeth, called enamel, is see-through. Sometimes, the dentin shows through and looks more yellow and bigger compared to the small, light-colored baby teeth. As your child’s permanent teeth continue to grow, they will gradually become lighter in color. As the baby teeth fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth, their smile will become more even and consistent in appearance.

4. Can thumb sucking or pacifier use cause tooth discoloration in children?

No, thumb sucking or pacifier use does not directly cause tooth discoloration in children. However, using pacifiers and thumb-sucking can introduce harmful bacteria into the mouth, increasing the chances of tooth decay. Some parents may dip the pacifier in sugary substances, which can also cause acid production and tooth enamel erosion, leading to decay.

Infographic: Ways To Prevent Tooth Discoloration In Children

Tooth discoloration may indicate an underlying oral health emergency, hamper your child’s confidence, and interfere with their relationships with peers and elders. So to prevent all of these, it is advisable to adopt certain practices and avoid discoloration. Explore the infographic below to learn about the preventive measures.

how to avoid discoloration of your childs teeth (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

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Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Tooth discoloration can be caused by genetics, medications, excessive fluoride, enamel abnormalities, dental trauma, certain diets, and poor oral care.
  • The color of tooth stains may indicate the underlying cause, such as enamel flaws, congenital erythropoietic porphyria, or adverse reactions to dental products.
  • Secondhand smoking exposure may increase the risk of dental problems in children.
  • Home remedies, such as lemon, salt, baking soda, or orange peels, can help alleviate mild tooth discoloration.

You may wonder why your child’s permanent teeth are yellow and have numerous other related questions. Watch this informative video to learn why this happens and how to keep your child’s teeth healthy and white.


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.
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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)
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