Teeth discoloration may seem too common to become harmful, so many parents simply shrug off their shoulders about it. Anyway, it may not hurt to have some streaks on the teeth that will eventually fall off, isn’t it? But wait! What if teeth discoloration has a major implication in your child’s dental health later on? Would you bother to take a couple of minutes to know more about it?
Teeth discoloration may not be a major health problem, but it may be coexistent with other dental conditions like tooth decay and gum problems. Teeth discoloration can affect your child’s smile and may have a great impact on his or her self-esteem, especially when they will start to enter preschool.
On top of that, problems with your child’s primary teeth have a main impact on how his permanent teeth will grow. Teeth discoloration that is related to plaque or tooth decay may advance up to the teeth’s root canal and the underlying bone tissues that are essential for tooth formation. This will alter the environment around the developing permanent teeth and affect the way they will align or appear later on.
How do you know if your toddler has teeth discoloration?
The primary or baby teeth are normally pearly white in color because they are more calcified than the permanent teeth. In the early stages of milk teeth discoloration, the teeth will lose its natural shine and may begin to appear greasy or sticky. Yellowish, gray, brown or white streaks may also become noticeable in the surfaces of the teeth.
Over time, the discoloration may thicken and become more clear. It can also lead to erosion and accompanied by other problems like tooth decay and gum disease.
What causes discoloration of teeth in toddlers?
There are various reasons why your little tot may have discolored teeth. If you noticed discolored tooth child may have experienced any of these predisposing conditions:
Poor oral hygiene
Children with poor oral hygiene practices are more prone to tooth discoloration and decay. A simple act of leaving the bottle in your toddler’s mouth after falling asleep will attract bacteria that can harm his primary teeth. Additionally, not brushing their teeth regularly will leave the food debris in their teeth, making it a good breeding ground of tooth decay and discoloration.
Sugary food and drinks
Sweetened and colored beverages can make a toddler teeth stained and prone to tooth decay and erosion. This includes carbonated drinks and acidic fruit juices like grape juice and cranberry juice.
Similarly, overconsumption of sweets and starchy foods like potatoes and pasta can attract the build-up of plaque and lead to teeth discoloration.
A recent tooth injury
Toddlerhood is a period of exploration wherein kids acquire new skills like walking, running and jumping. Though this physical development is necessary for them to grow, these new activities will make them prone to injury, and their tiny teeth aren’t spared.
Tooth injury is a common cause of red, grey or brown stains on the baby teeth. When the injury destroyed the blood vessels underneath the teeth, it will result in bruising. This bruise will be similar to the ones you notice on your skin after a bump. But in this case, the bruise extends toward the affected tooth as manifested by reddish or brownish streaks.
Though they may look bothering, the discoloration from a recent tooth injury is often temporary. As the bruise heals, your toddler’s injured tooth can slowly gain back its usual white color.
Medications or vitamin intake
Medications that can affect the production of saliva, like antihistamines, may also affect the color of your toddler’s teeth. Saliva is supposed to flush the food debris that are stuck on your child’s teeth and give some sort of protection from the bacteria that cause tooth decay. However, with antihistamine treatment, this protection is deterred, which can then predispose those white teeth to discoloration. Some antibiotics and multivitamins containing iron may also lead to yellow baby teeth.
Taking antibiotics, like tetracycline, while pregnant or breastfeeding may also affect your child’s primary teeth and lead to baby teeth stain and discoloration.
Excessive fluoride consumption
Fluoride protects your toddler’s teeth from enamel erosion and tooth decay, but too much of this mineral can also cause tooth discoloration. Over consumption of fluoride from fluoridated water and other food sources may increase the risk of developing faint white streaks on your child’s teeth. This condition, called dental fluorosis, alters the enamel production of your child’s teeth. Though it can be pretty harmless, some severe cases may be too noticeable such that it can already affect the child’s self-esteem.
In the United States, most drinking water supplies are already fortified with fluoride, along with toothpastes and mouth wash that are also infused with fluoride. These will often provide enough (or even more) of what your toddler needs to maintain a healthy set of teeth. So before you give your toddler an additional fluoride supplement, it is best to consult your child’s doctor or dentist first to determine whether it is still needed or not.
Toddlers who had neonatal jaundice or had too much bilirubin in the blood when they were born may also be at an increased risk of teeth discoloration. This condition, along with other cardiovascular and liver diseases, may cause yellow or green tinge on their teeth.
Preventing Teeth Discoloration In Toddlers
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that most babies will develop their first tooth at around 6 to 12 months of age. During this time, proper oral hygiene practices and infusing enough fluoride is recommended to prevent tooth discoloration and decay. Establishing a regular dental routine and checkup is also advised to make sure that your baby’s teeth are growing normally, and to have early detection of tooth decay or discoloration.
They say, prevention is a better cure. So here, we have some tips on how you can prevent teeth discoloration in your little tot.
Establish good dental hygiene early
It is best to begin teaching your toddler about dental care as early as possible. Toddlers need to learn how to brush and care for their teeth at an early age so that this practice will be incorporated in their daily routine.
Starting infancy, you may begin good hygiene practices by using a damp washcloth to clean your baby’s gums and mouth. Removing the milk that is left in the gums and mouth will prevent fungal and bacterial infections and facilitates the healthy eruption of your baby’s primary teeth.
An effective technique in teaching your toddler how to hold and position the toothbrush is while facing a mirror. You can also join your little tot in tooth brushing and make it a regular bonding moment in between the two of you.
Only use the recommended amount of fluoride toothpaste
Once the primary teeth begin to emerge, you can use a child-friendly toothbrush with a grain-sized smear of fluoride toothpaste to brush your child’s teeth. Do this at least twice a day, especially after the last drink that your child had before sleeping at night.
Upon reaching 3 years of age, the AAP recommends using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste in brushing your toddler’s teeth. Also teach your little one how to spit the toothpaste so that it won’t end up on his little tummy.
Give sugary foods and drinks in moderation
It is essential to give these foods and drinks in moderation and avoid offering them right before your toddler goes to bed. Make sure to assist your toddler in brushing his or her teeth after drinking soda or fruit juices and after eating sweets.
Gradually switch from baby bottle to cups
Young children are fond of drinking milk from their bottle as they snooze down to sleep at night. However, this practice is being discouraged by experts. This is because the excess milk pooling inside the mouth and around your child’s teeth will be a good breeding ground for bacteria and plaque, which can lead to tooth discoloration and decay. This condition is also termed as baby bottle tooth decay.
To prevent this problem, you can gradually wean your baby off the baby bottle by offering all liquids, including their milk, from a sippy cup. You can start giving the sippy cup once you introduce solid foods at the age of 6 months. The AAP recommends all baby bottles to be phased out anytime between 12 to 24 months to protect the child’s teeth from baby bottle tooth decay and teeth discoloration.
Teeth discoloration in toddlers may affect the formation and appearance of their permanent teeth later on. Moreover, the yellow, brown or grey streaks in the teeth may impact the self-esteem of a young child, making room for sociological conflicts as they grow. The best way to deal with teeth discoloration is prevention, but if the problem does exist now, you can always ask your child’s dentist for options of how to treat the discoloration accordingly.