Having discolored teeth can cause embarrassment in a child, especially through the awkward years. A clean, bright and ‘white’ smile can boost self-esteem, as well as encourage children to maintain better oral health.

Believe it or not, normal and healthy tooth color ranges through an array of variations. Since normal enamel is translucent, the color is mainly determined by the dentin, or the second layer of hard tissue beneath the enamel which ranges from orange-red to yellow-green. When this color is perceived by our eyes through the layer of enamel, a healthy off-white natural tooth color is visible. Amount and quality of calcification of both these layers of teeth determine how bright and ‘white’ a smile looks.

Baby teeth are also normally whiter than permanent teeth, as well as being smaller. However, when a tooth varies from its normal coloration, there can be cause for concern and it is best to get the tooth (or teeth) checked by a pediatric dentist.

In children, there are a number of causes for tooth discoloration that can be generally broken down into 2 major categories:

External Causes

  • Inadequate brushing and poor dental hygiene that causes plaque to build up
  • Food and drink stains (pigments)
  • Medications containing iron, such as vitamin supplements
  • Lighter spots when braces are removed due to decalcification of enamel
  • Trauma and infection on a baby tooth that leads to spot discoloration on a permanent tooth

Internal Causes

  • Tooth trauma and/or nerve damage
  • Tooth decay
  • Mom taking tetracycline during pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Excessive fluoride from powdered or liquid concentrate infant formula mixed with fluoridated water
  • Medical condition that interferes with teeth development during pregnancy or infant’s early years of life

Should I Whiten My Child’s Teeth?

  • The best way to handle discoloration is to try to avoid it in the first place. Professional cleaning and good daily dental hygiene go a long way in preventing or removing normal tooth discoloration.
  • Brush at least twice a day (morning and evening) with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Use an ADA-approved kid’s toothpaste that contains a mild abrasive if necessary. For children under the age of 3, until they learn to spit, use only a rice grain-sized smear of toothpaste.
  • Visit your pediatric dentist twice a year for a professional exam and cleaning.
  • Avoid foods that stain. Offenders can include dark-colored fruit juices and sodas, tea, popsicles, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, tomato sauce, blueberries, and beets.
  • Use only water in sippy cups.

Tooth whitening products include:

  • Over the counter tooth whitening products – whitening toothpaste or whitening strips.
  • Professional whitening procedure – custom dental trays, in-office professional bleaching, laser whitening.
  • More permanent measures for teeth whitening can include enamel tooth veneers or porcelain crowns.

The Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends waiting until the child is at least 14 years of age before considering tooth whitening procedures. This allows the tooth pulp to fully form and reduces sensitivity levels.

At Smile Wonders, we like to wait until adolescence to perform teeth whitening, until after at least four front upper adult teeth have come in. We begin with a thorough cleaning and spot treatment, and then progress to using our EPIC™ X diode laser and/or Waterlaser™.

Contact Smile Wonders

Reston pediatric dentist Dr. Rishita Jaju of Smile Wonders would be glad to assess your child’s dental health and provide options for dental whitening. Please contact us at 571-350-3663.