Updated: Jun 27
Have you recently noticed something off with the colour of your children's baby teeth? As
health-conscious parents, some are worried that the change in their children's baby teeth
colour is the beginning of an unsettling situation.
However, there is nothing to be worried about as this can be considered a regular occurrence in children. Knowing some possible causes of tooth colour changes can help you take the appropriate measure to ensure your children's dental health and general well-being are not jeopardised.
Tooth colour changes or commonly called tooth discolouration, are mainly classified into two classifications which are extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic is a situation where changes occur at the tooth's outer surface, while inherent are due to changes inside the tooth.
Whether you have brought your kids for their first dental visit to check their teeth or not, this article will provide you with some insights on the top 7 reasons that cause discoloured teeth.
Are you concerned about the black spots on your child's teeth? If a baby's teeth are not
regularly cleaned and brushed, the baby will tend to form a type of chromogenic bacteria. As
indicated by their name, they cause chroma stains to the teeth, essentially causing tooth
These bacteria, when not removed, start depositing on the tooth's surface and stain the tooth, causing black or sometimes even orange stains. This staining usually appears near the gum line. These stains are extrinsic and can be removed professionally by the dentist but can not be removed at home with simple brushing once the stains are formed.
How about the brown stain on my baby teeth ? What are the cause and how should I get rid of them? When you child tooth starts to accumulate brown stains, you might want into their diet habits.
Diet plays a vital role in tooth staining because they come to direct contact with the teeth. It is not surprising sometimes iron supplements or multivitamins can be another cause of stains on the child's teeth. The multivitamins also contain iron, leading to black stains on the surface of the teeth.
Besides that, some fruits, such as red dragon fruits or mango, will cause temporary stains on
the tooth surface but can be easily removed by rinsing with water.
On the other hand, food debris that is not cleaned properly will become plaque. And the
plaque is an established dental biofilm that sticks to the tooth surface. Plaque can cause
yellowish to black stains on the teeth too.
If you suspect your child’s teeth are discoloured due to diet habits, it's best to bring them to a children-friendly dental clinic for a checkup. Good news is that food-caused stains and plaque are usually not permanent and can be easily removed by a dentist with a regular scaling and polishing.
The other common cause of teeth discolouration is cavities or caries. Dental caries are usually brown to black cavities on the teeth top or side. Poor dental hygiene is the main culprit of dental cavities, especially when combined with a high-sugar diet in children.
In some cases, due to the parents' negligence about their children's oral health, children tend to develop early childhood caries (ECC). There are a few essential steps for parents to
prevent the occurrence of early childhood caries, including:
Limiting the sugar intake of the children
Reduce the frequency of in-between meal snacks
Stop bottle-feeding their children after 12 months
Avoid bottle-feeding milk to sleep
For children aged 0-6 years, oral injuries account for 18% of all physical injuries, and the
mouth is the second most common area of the body to be injured.
Trauma in children is usually due to unintentional falls, collisions and especially high
prevalence in children learning to crawl, walk or run. After a tooth is subjected to trauma, it
might result in pain, loss and sometimes changes in colour.
The change in colour of the tooth might take 2-3 weeks to show, and the colour is usually
yellowish, grey to purple. The change in tooth colour after trauma does not necessarily
indicate the severity of the injury.
According to studies, children aged 2-4 during trauma have higher chances of teeth
discolouration. Discoloured greyish teeth usually indicate low blood supply and might
lead to tooth death. If the baby's tooth had turned grey, it means it is dead, and a root canal treatment might be needed.
However, sometimes after a tooth trauma, the teeth might turn slightly pinkish due to increased bleeding inside the tooth. In these cases, a dentist might opt to monitor the tooth as there is a chance for recovery.
The tooth might be able to lighten back up, but that usually takes several months. If the
discolouration turns greyish black in the future, or there is a sign of infection, management
should be taken.
When mouth rinse that contains chlorhexidine is used continuously for more than two weeks,
there is a high risk of causing brown staining on the teeth that are not removable by regular
However, this is only true when the mouth rinses contain chlorhexidine, so check your
regular mouth rinse before you purchase.
The following reasons that cause teeth discolouration are uncommon but can be seen in some cases. Tetracycline is often associated with brown or brown-grey tooth staining.
Although these are usually seen in children when their pregnant mother consumes
tetracycline during pregnancy, some instances of staining to the adult teeth happen due to
tetracycline being consumed during the development of adult teeth.
Although there are reports of tetracycline staining in adult teeth after the teeth fully matured, these kinds of staining are usually easy to remove compared to stains incorporated into the teeth during development.
Hypomineralised teeth, also known as under-matured teeth, appear when incomplete
maturation occurs. This can happen in all teeth of, baby teeth or only specific teeth or only
Generalised hypo mineralised teeth in children are usually due to a disturbance during
tooth formation. This can be due to a severe illness that affects the body's metabolism or systemic infection in the children or the pregnant mother.
Molar incisor hypomineralisation (MIH) is where one to four permanent first molar tooth is under-matured and frequently associated with the front tooth. The prevalence of this condition is around 8-20 % in children, according to different types of studies in other regions of the world. MIH tooth is associated with brown enamel discolouration. This causes discolouration to the tooth and makes the teeth porous and brittle.
Due to the hypomineralisation of the teeth, those teeth are very prone to cavities and often
experience hypersensitivity. To treat this teeth discolouration issue, proper management
should be taken by a dentist to preserve the tooth longevity as this type of tooth is easily lost
at a young age if not taken care of.
Stained or discoloured teeth in children can significantly impact their confidence and self-
esteem. Children become more self-aware and self-conscious about their appearance and
teeth as they grow up.
Addressing tooth discolouration in children should be a priority to prevent long-term dental
problems and boost a child's confidence and self-esteem. Parents and caregivers are crucial in educating children about maintaining good oral hygiene and seeking dental care. Once you understand the common reasons behind staining on children's teeth, you will be able to
prevent it or seek treatment earlier.
Written by Dr Felicia Chan
Dr Felicia Chai is a Principal Dentist at Skye Dental Penang and has been working in the dental industry for over 10 years.
About Skye Dental Penang
Skye Dental Penang is a family-oriented dental clinic by Dr Felicia Chai which aims to provide the optimum dental care to all your family members. Check out our member deal at this child-friendly clinic with dentists who are experienced with children, especially toddlers!