Common Causes Of Tooth Discoloration In Young Children

Posted on: 15 July 2015

If you notice that your child's pearly whites are now more yellow or brown than white, you might be concerned. However, while some tooth discoloration can indicate troublesome dental health problems, other instances of stained teeth are simply cosmetic problems that won't last forever. Here are some of the common reasons why your child's teeth are no longer white and what you can do about it.


Amoxicillin, a common antibiotic used to fight ear infections and step throat in young children, has the potential to stain teeth. You might notice that your child has streaks of yellow or tan on their teeth during the course of the treatment. Some researchers are concerned that amoxicillin can change the quality of young tooth enamel, which is not as hard as the enamel on mature adult teeth. You might want to consider brushing your child's teeth with baking soda and refrain from using fluoridated toothpaste and fluoride supplements during this time, as the antibiotics make staining from fluorosis more likely. 

If your toddler is on a course of antibiotics, which will usually be given in a suspended solution with some sugary syrup, it best to rinse out the mouth with water after each dose and then brush the teeth thoroughly. After your child is no longer sick, you should expect to see stains gradually fade with consistent brushing. If they do not fade entirely, you can talk to your pediatric dentist about having the stains removed with bleaching. 

Other antibiotics, like tetracycline, can stain children's teeth more permanently-- sometimes grey or even orange. Because these stains are much more permanent than those caused by basic amoxicillin, tetracyclines will only be given to children in extreme cases.


Teeth are not as white as people think. In fact, healthy teeth in children will be more creamy in color, rather than starkly white. If you notice that your child's teeth are starting to develop white spots or streaks on the surface, these are actually stains that are caused by bacteria removing calcium deposits from the teeth-- the first stage of decay. Eventually, the stark white areas will start to turn into brown decay spots, which will require fillings. Intense fluoride treatments and rigorous cleaning of the spotted teeth can help to stop the white decay from becoming cavities. But you should know the white stains on the teeth may still be permanent, even after the danger has passed.

Hypocalcified Teeth

Sometimes, the enamel in growing teeth can develop abnormally. Calcification of enamel can happen in both primary and permanent teeth. When the tooth erupts, the enamel begins to harden, but the minerals will be too concentrated. Therefore, the teeth can have white patches, yellow patches, or brown patches, depending on the severity. This discoloration is permanent, but it is usually only a cosmetic issue. In extreme cases, the enamel may stay soft or become weaker in places, leaving teeth more open to decay, and your child may experience some sensitivity to hot and cold things. 

If permanent teeth are the ones that are affected, your child can have the stained areas removed and filled, much like a cavity is, after all the teeth have formed-- usually when they are teenagers or young adults. Sometimes, if calcification is very bad, a crown might be needed to restore tooth color and shape. Avoid acidic foods, as these can make damage to calcified teeth worse. 

Poor Hygiene

Sometimes, discoloration simply means that teeth are not being cleaned properly. Orange, dark yellow, green, or even black colors on the teeth and gums usually form only because bacteria and food particles have not been brushed away as they ought to be. Remember that a child will need help with proper teeth cleaning until about age six. Parents should make sure that teeth are always properly cleaned at least twice a day. 

If you have more questions or concerns, contact a local children's dentist