Stained and discolored teeth in children can cause parents a lot of anxiety. Is that stain actually a cavity?  Why are my child’s teeth discolored?  Will they always look that way?  How can I prevent this from happening in the future?  Discolored teeth can also cause a child a lot of anxiety, so understanding the causes and treatments are important for both parents and their children.

What Causes Discolored Teeth?

First, understand that there’s a difference between a stain and discoloring.  Stains are external, on the surface issues, while discoloring is within the tooth itself. External stains include those caused by:

  • Tea, soda, dark beverages, colored beverages, dyed foods, even dark healthy foods like blueberries or strawberries
  • Iron contact can cause external staining (such as metal salts)
  • Iron supplements or anything with a high level of iron
  • Improper brushing (excessive plaque left behind that accumulates)

Discoloring is different. Factors known to cause intrinsic discoloration include:

  • metabolic disorders
  • systemic syndromes
  • dentin defects
  • tetracycline stains
  • fluorosis
  • trauma
  • enamel hypoplasia

The cause of stains is fairly straightforward.  Discolored teeth causes are more complex. Below are the two more common causes:

Trauma – may cause tooth discoloration. The cause of this is capillary breakage inside of the tooth

Fluorosis – the resulting dental discoloration ranges from chalky white to a brown-black appearance. Fluorosis is caused by excessive fluoride intake and is very rare.

If you suspect the discolored tooth is more than trauma or massive amounts of fluoride, reach out to your pediatric dentist to determine the cause and the best course of action to address it.

Treating Stained Teeth

There are so many options to treat stained teeth; it’s best reach out to your pediatric dentist so they can recommend a specific treatment based on the cause.

Preventing Future Staining

There are a few things parents can do to greatly reduce the possibility of their child getting stained teeth:

  • Limited dark colored beverages such as tea, dark sodas, etc.
  • Limited heavily dyed food consumption such as popsicles and other colored foods
  • Make sure your child is brushing thoroughly and properly each day, two times a day for two minutes

Treating Discolored Teeth

Typically, most discolored teeth are caused by cavities or certain dental conditions, or even from wearing braces and not being able to brush well around the brackets.  Treating discolored teeth cause by cavities is likely a matter of removing the cavity and putting in a filling. Here are other options for cavities and other discolored tooth causes:

  • Bleaching
  • Laminate veneers
  • MI paste
  • ICON

Of course, treatment depends on the cause of discolored teeth. Your pediatric dentist will create a treatment plan that best for your child.

How can I tell why my child’s teeth are discolored or stained?

Depending on the cause, there are a few telltale signs, but always confirm with your dentist in lieu of trying to self-diagnose what’s happening with your child’s teeth:

Teeth are grey – this is likely caused by tooth drama

Teeth are blue, purple or red – likely caused by food dye or tooth trauma

Teeth are brown – likely caused by a dark beverage or tooth trauma

Teeth have orange stains – caused by improper brushing; bacteria accumulate

Teeth have white spots – might be early tooth decay

Bringing your child into your pediatric dentist’s office will allow them to diagnose the possible cause of the stain or discoloration, possibly treat it if indicated, and to discuss ways of preventing similar problems in the future.