Why are my Kid’s Teeth Yellow?
One of the most prominent questions I would come across in my office regarding adolescents is “Why are my kid’s teeth yellow?” The easiest way to explain this to parents is that it is natural. However, it has been determined that as we get older, our teeth will continue to get darker and more stained. The color of our teeth is determined by the second layer of the teeth known as the dentin.
This problem becomes amplified when a child has mixed dentition, where both permanent and primary (baby) teeth are present. Baby teeth are naturally whiter than permanent teeth, and when they are side by side to each other, the difference is more obvious. You can rest easy, though, and know that in time the baby teeth will fall out and the child will have less noticeably yellow teeth.
What Makes Them Yellow?
Picture your tooth as a sponge with several thousand intricate tubules running from the external surface of the tooth to the pulp (nerve). Now imagine those tubes retaining all the stain, particles, and debris from the items you are drinking and eating. Over time, those tubes will become dark and exemplify a naturally darker tone. This darkness can be exacerbated if the person uses tobacco and/or wine.
Additionally, there can also be extrinsic (external) staining from different medicines and certain types of bacteria. Extrinsic staining can be removed through a thorough cleaning to include scaling and an abrasive pumice prophy. Some folks have been successful removing these type of stains using baking soda, but I don’t recommend this technique. Using an abrasive material to clean and whiten your teeth can lead to severe gum recession, sensitivity, and erosion of your outer layer of tooth – enamel.
Research shows that children may use a judicious, or minimal, amount of bleaching material to whiten their teeth; however, the child must not have any baby teeth remaining
Another contributor to tooth discoloration is a history of trauma. If a tooth has experienced a traumatic event, then there is a possibility the tooth will become necrotic (dead) and the pulp calcifies – giving off a very yellow tint. Pro golfer Tiger Woods had a tooth that had this occur.
Let’s not also forget that poor hygiene can allow a build-up of plaque on the teeth, leading to a yellowish and caked appearance. Check out my article “The Art of War – Children and Brushing” to find out more useful information regarding plaque build-up.
How to Make Teeth Whiter
There exist hundreds of whitening products on the market today that promise superior results. However, the mechanism that most products use for debriding (cleaning) the tubules is hydrogen peroxide – a key ingredient. There are several gimmicks out there that promise superior results with a ZOOM light etc.was, but all the light does is heat the tooth up and cause the chemical to catalyze a little faster than if the patient were to go home and use bleaching trays.
Crest Whitestrips have been found to be as effective as most prescription strength whiteners available. Society has also pushed our mentality to have excessively white teeth. One commercial (seen below) says we should compare our teeth to a tissue, but I can assure you that this is unrealistic.
If one were to make their teeth this white, then they would have severe sensitivity. Remember, whitening your teeth is simply cleaning out the tubules of the teeth and exposing an uninsulated pulp.
Research has shown that children can use a judicious (minimal) amount of a bleaching material when there are no baby teeth remaining. However, this process should be carefully monitored by your child’s dentist.
If a tooth is discolored from trauma, then one would need to seek professional help and have a procedure called internal bleaching. This is a multi-step procedure that uses a very caustic chemical (sodium perborate) to bleach the tooth.
Hazards of Whitening your Teeth
There is a saying that “pain is beauty” and teeth seem to follow suit. The most common side effects of whitening are sensitivity, followed by receding or irritated gums. The more dangerous side effects include root resorption and research has shown that the hydrogen peroxide causes a release of inorganic mercury from amalgam (silver) fillings that can cause issues for fetuses in pregnant women.
Root resorption occurs when a tooth begins to either eat itself from the inside (internal) or the ligament holding the tooth in place begins eating the tooth from the outside (external). Either situation will lead to loss of the tooth.
Another potential hazard is if a child with mixed dentition (both permanent and baby teeth) bleaches their teeth. You will notice that the baby teeth become whiter, while the permanent teeth will not become as white proportionally – leading to an even bigger discrepancy between the two types of teeth.
I hope that this information was useful, and I look forward to your questions or comments below. Thanks for stopping by and
Remember, you only have to brush and floss the teeth you want to keep!
Until next time…