My child's baby teeth seem discolored. Should I be worried?
Answers from Alan Carr, D.M.D.
Baby teeth, also called primary teeth, are typically off-white or ivory. Baby teeth can become discolored for many reasons, including:
- Inadequate brushing. If baby teeth aren't brushed properly, bacteria (plaque) might form on the teeth — which can lead to tooth discoloration.
- Medication use. Infant medications containing iron, such as supplemental vitamins, might cause dark stains on baby teeth. Taking the antibiotic tetracycline during pregnancy can cause a child to have discolored baby teeth, too.
- Tooth or gum injury. Trauma to baby teeth or gums might cause discoloration, often giving baby teeth a pink or gray tint.
- Weak enamel. A genetic problem with enamel formation might lead to discolored baby teeth.
- Excessive fluoride. Regularly mixing powdered or liquid concentrate infant formula with fluoridated water might increase your child's risk of developing faint white markings or streaks on the teeth — a sign of mild enamel fluorosis.
- Newborn jaundice. A baby who develops jaundice after birth might have baby teeth with a green tint.
- Serious illness. A widespread infection during infancy might result in discolored baby teeth. Conditions such as newborn hepatitis and some types of heart disease can have the same effect.
If the discoloration is caused by poor dental hygiene, more thorough brushing might help. Until your child learns to spit — at about age 3 — use a smear of fluoride toothpaste no bigger than the size of a grain of rice.
To keep your child's mouth healthy, avoid filling your child's bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks and don't put him or her to bed with a bottle. Also, don't share eating utensils with your child. This can spread cavity-causing bacteria. If your child uses a pacifier, never dip it in honey or sugar.
Discuss your concerns about your child's baby teeth with his or her doctor. He or she might refer you to a pediatric dentist. After addressing any underlying issues, the dentist might recommend bleaching the discolored teeth or simply watching the teeth for signs of other problems.
April 12, 2014
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- McInerny TK, et al. American Academy of Pediatrics Textbook of Pediatric Care. Elk Grove Village, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2009:1437.
- Fluorosis. American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/fluorosis.aspx. Accessed July 19, 2013.
- Healthy habits. American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/healthy-habits. Accessed Feb. 21, 2014.