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Why Do Children's Teeth Turn Yellow?

Why Do Children's Teeth Turn Yellow?

While the causes of yellow teeth in adults are similar to the causes of yellow teeth in children, there are several major differences given that children's teeth are still growing. Just like adults, children want to have healthy, white teeth. If you have noticed that your child’s teeth look a bit more yellow than usual, read on to find out the reason behind it.

How are yellow teeth in children different from adults?

To begin with, yellow teeth in children and adults have identical causes, such as poor oral hygiene and stains caused by the food we consume. One major difference is that baby teeth are relatively whiter than permanent teeth.

Here's why:

1. Permanent teeth contain more dentin, which is the yellow layer underneath the tooth and below the enamel.

2. The enamel of permanent teeth is also slightly translucent, making the yellow shade even more obvious.

3. Permanent teeth also have larger nerve canals.

4. As we age, our tooth enamel will also calcify and grow lighter in colour, making the dentin appear more prominently.

What are the reasons behind your child's yellow teeth?

1. Their permanent teeth are starting to erupt

Your child's baby teeth will usually start falling out around the age of 6, and quickly followed by the eruption of their permanent teeth. Once it fully erupts, you will notice that their permanent teeth will be more yellowish in colour, especially when compared to their remaining baby teeth. Just remember that this is never a cause for concern! Once all of your child’s permanent teeth have erupted, they will have a uniform appearance in terms of colour.

2. Accumulated plaque on their tooth surfaces

When the naturally-occurring bacteria in our mouth mix with food and saliva, it will turn into a sticky substance that stays on our teeth and along our gum line known as plaque. Plaque often looks like a pale-yellow film on the surface of the teeth (and is sometimes colourless), which can be hard to detect.

It gets worse when your child isn't brushing their teeth enough or using the right technique, leading to poor oral hygiene. To know for sure whether if it's plaque buildup that's making your child's baby or permanent teeth yellowish, bring them to the dentist.

3. Traumatic injury on the tooth

Dental trauma is one of the most common causes of yellowish-brown or grey teeth. If your child has experienced any sports injury or fall, their teeth may become discoloured. If that happens, it means that the tooth's blood flow has been disrupted and became non-vital (also known as a dead tooth).

4. Medical conditions

There are certain health conditions that can cause yellow teeth in toddlers. For instance, there's a rare chance that serious illnesses such as heart and liver disease can cause a toddler's teeth to turn yellow. Severe neonatal jaundice is also another possible cause.1

5. Fluorosis

Fluorosis happens when children consume too much fluoride during early childhood. The usual source of fluoride is fluoridated toothpaste or tap water that contains beyond the optimum fluoride concentration. Too much fluoride damages the cells that form the tooth enamel, causing teeth to turn yellow or brown.

6. Developmental defects of the teeth

There are plenty of conditions that can cause your child's teeth to turn yellow, from metabolic disorders to dentin defects and even enamel hypoplasia. While it is unlikely, tooth discolouration can also be inherited, or it can be a symptom of other underlying medical issues. In some cases, the teeth aren't just yellow but are brown, red, or mixtures of colours.

7. Staining from tetracycline or other antibiotics

There are also medications that can cause both baby and permanent teeth to turn yellow. If children under the age of 7 (with teeth that's still developing) take tetracycline or doxycycline (types of antibiotics), their teeth may turn brownish-yellow. Women who take tetracycline after the fourth month of pregnancy or while breastfeeding can cause a child to have discoloured baby teeth too.2

How to treat yellow teeth in children?

Depending on the cause, there are a number of treatment options available for yellow teeth in children. If plaque has accumulated, you need to regularly bring your child to the dentist for a check-up and cleaning to get rid of all lingering plaque, tartar and stains.

If your child's yellow teeth are caused by intrinsic staining, developmental defects or tooth injuries, it requires interventive and invasive dental treatments, which includes a series of history-taking and investigations such as the usage x-ray. For mild intrinsic staining cases of yellow teeth, teeth whitening treatments that are performed by a dental professional could be more than enough.

However, some intrinsic stains exist on the deeper layer of the tooth, for example due to dental trauma such as knocking your teeth from falling down, breaking the blood vessels in the tooth to cause discolouration. This may become a concern for children aged 7 and above as they already have some of their permanent tooth. In such cases, more extensive dental treatments such as porcelain veneers or dental crowns are needed to improve the colour of the teeth when they are older and would be more concerned of their appearance.

Tips to keep your children's teeth white and healthy

Are your kids complaining about brushing their teeth? You are not alone! However, given the importance of good oral hygiene, you need to find ways to make it fun and interesting while educating them. Here are some tips for all parents alike.

1. Encourage your kids to start taking care of their teeth early

When kids get tired of brushing their teeth, they tend to throw tantrums. However, that should not stop you from teaching them what's right and encouraging them to adopt a healthy habit. After all, habits are built on repetition, and when you allow them to stop brushing every time they don’t feel like it, it will develop into a bad habit. Make sure to adopt an understanding and loving tone when teaching your kids.

2. Do not turn it into something competitive

It's important to let your kids know that they need to brush correctly, not quickly. As a start, don't rush them. Instead, set a 2-minute timer so they know how long it will take to thoroughly brush their teeth. After they are finished, take a close look and see if there are any plaque left on the surface of their teeth, because if there are a lot, they need to learn to brush properly next time.

3. Make brushing something to look forward to

Children respond well to positive reinforcement such as praises and rewards, especially from their parents. When they do brush their teeth correctly, praise them for their efforts. Not only will they feel good about it, but they will also feel happy to do it again.

To make it even more fun, let them choose their favourite kids toothbrush! Kids will definitely love colourful and adorable toothbrushes, so you should strongly consider getting them one!

4. Choose kids toothpaste with a suitable amount of fluoride

Fluoride is a mineral that naturally fights cavities. However, too much fluoride can be bad for health. As children are still new to brushing their teeth, they might accidentally swallow toothpaste. To be safe, choose a toothpaste with a suitable amount of fluoride for your children.

5. Make it a bonding session

Make teeth brushing a fun activity between parent and child! It always helps to demonstrate how fun it can actually be. After all, parents are the role models of their children. While you are at it, you can also observe if your child is brushing properly and take the chance to educate them!

6. Practice a tooth-friendly diet

Encourage your child to eat plenty of fruits and leafy vegetables! They contain a lot of fibre which not just keeps their teeth and gums clean, but also keeps the saliva flowing! Saliva plays a big role in cleaning food debris and plaque that may be stuck in their teeth.

As long as your little one's teeth are healthy, there's really nothing to worry about! The better shape your children's baby teeth are in, the better their chances are at having a healthy and nicely aligned set of permanent teeth later on. Ultimately, your child's oral health matters more.


  1. Barbério, G. S., Zingra, A., Santos, P., & Machado, M. (2018). Green Teeth Related to Bilirubin Levels. Acta stomatologica Croatica, 52(1), 61–64.
  2. Vennila, V., Madhu, V., Rajesh, R., Ealla, K. K., Velidandla, S. R., & Santoshi, S. (2014). Tetracycline-induced discoloration of deciduous teeth: case series. Journal of international oral health : JIOH, 6(3), 115–119.
Oral Health Tips
Why Do Children's Teeth Turn Yellow?