Baby teeth, also called primary teeth, are typically whiter than adult permanent teeth because they are more calcified. Baby teeth can become discolored for many reasons, including:

1. Their Permanent Teeth Are Starting to Erupt

If your child is old enough to start getting permanent teeth, you may notice that these teeth look a bit more yellow. Don’t worry. This is normal.

There are a few reasons that permanent teeth may look yellow. First, they have more dentin (the yellowish second layer of the tooth) compared to baby teeth. The nerve canal is also larger when the tooth first erupts. The enamel of the permanent teeth is more naturally transparent when they first emerge and replace the baby teeth. 

Combined, these factors can make it look like your child’s tooth is yellow or stained. But don’t worry. Over time, the enamel will harden, and as your child’s remaining baby teeth fall out and are replaced, their smile will become a consistent white color. 

2. Plaque & Tartar Are Building up Due to Inadequate Brushing

If your child doesn’t brush at least twice a day for 2+ minutes, bacteria-filled plaque and tartar can form on their teeth. Plaque can attract stains from foods and beverages, and tartar has a yellowish-brown color that may also discolor the teeth.

If you believe your child’s teeth may have excessive plaque buildup, they may have a higher risk of cavities.

3. Their Teeth May Have Thin Enamel

A number of genetic factors can affect the formation of your child’s tooth enamel. If your child’s enamel is thinner or weaker than normal, their teeth may look yellow. This is because enamel is whitish in color, while the layer of dentin underneath the enamel looks much more yellow.

If the enamel is thin, the yellow dentin below it can show through more clearly, which will make your child’s teeth appear discolored. Children with weak enamel will require special care and attention to keep their teeth free of cavities and other complications. 

4. Their Teeth May Have Been Stained by Antibiotics Like Tetracycline 

This is very rare in the developed world, but it’s still worth discussing. Tetracycline and similar antibiotics were first used to fight bacterial infections in the 1950s.

What likely happens is the tetracycline binds to the hard tissues of the teeth. Then, when the tooth erupts, it causes a yellow discoloration that will eventually oxidize and turn brownish-gray. For this reason, pediatricians no longer administer this category of antibiotics to pregnant women or kids under the age of 12 in America.

Treatment for Stained Teeth

Some types of tooth staining can be treated via whitening strips or something called Vital Bleaching, in which hydrogen peroxide-based treatments are applied to the teeth and then special lights can be applied to accelerate it. These types of treatments are usually reserved for mild and uniform discolorations of teeth. If your dentist recommends these types of tooth whitening, they’ll base the proper course of action not only on your child’s age and ability to handle the treatment, but also on the condition of the teeth and staining themselves.

For intrinsic discolorations, there are other techniques that can be used. These include the “etch, bleach, and seal” technique which removes stains that are still near the surface, “microabrasion with dental bleaching” which is a bit harsher, or, if these treatments won’t be enough to lighten the teeth, such as in the case of deep tetracycline stains, composite veneers, which go over the fronts of the teeth and require the removal of a layer of enamel, might be suggested.

Veneers don’t last forever, so if you’re looking at veneers as an option, you might want to consider whether your child will be able to continue their upkeep as an adult to avoid further complications. Sometimes whitening is only a minor cosmetic concern and drastic actions to make the teeth look white can cause more harm in the long run.

If you’re considering tooth whitening for your child, it’s important to speak with your dentist about how uncomfortable the treatment is, how much it costs, and how effective it will be at eliminating the problem.


We love our patients and love to help them form healthy dental life that will last them a lifetime. Growing Smiles is a pediatric dentist in AnnaRichardson, Plano, Garland, Murphy we have Pediatric Services in Texas: Early Childhood CarePreventive CareGeneral TreatmentsSedation DentistrySpecial Needs DentistryEmergency Service and Orthodontic (Braces & Invisalign) For more information call us to answer all of your questions so get an appointment today.