You expected your baby's gummy smile to transform into a toothy toddler grin but were surprised to discover that his baby teeth weren't exactly pearly whites. While baby teeth are usually off-white or ivory, a variety of factors can cause babies' teeth to grow in--or eventually become--discolored, says the Mayo Clinic. Many stains are irreversible, but not all discoloration transfers to adult teeth.
If your child's baby teeth appear yellow or orange, BabyCenter online mentions that it's most likely because her teeth aren't being cleaned thoroughly and plaque has become stained with food particles. Another common cause of discoloration in baby teeth is trauma to the teeth or gums, which may be sustained in early childhood in falls or collisions.
Your child may have inherited weak enamel, which can cause discolored baby teeth and make him more susceptible to cavities. Also, a newborn with jaundice may develop baby teeth that have a green tint. Infections and serious illnesses such as newborn hepatitis and some forms of heart disease can also cause discolored baby teeth, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Consuming too much fluoride through drinking water and toothpaste during early childhood can cause your child to develop a condition known as fluorosis. Fluorosis may cause mild discoloration such as white streaks and spots or severe discoloration such as black stains, as well as cracking and pitting in the baby or permanent teeth. Your child may also develop dark stains on her baby teeth if she consumes iron-containing medications such as supplemental vitamins, or if you took the antibiotic tetracycline during pregnancy.
Circumstances such as a genetic predisposition to weak enamel, illness in infancy and accidental injuries to teeth and gums aren't necessarily preventable, but you can take some steps to protect your child's teeth. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you thoroughly clean your infant's teeth, observe your older child's tooth-brushing habits and schedule regular appointments with a pediatric dentist. It also recommends that you don't put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk or juice and that you don't allow your child to use toothpaste until he is old enough to spit it out.
Some tooth discoloration may be treated with bleaching, but your child's dentist may not recommend bleaching as a remedy. Moreover, many causes of discolored baby teeth, such as tooth injuries and weak enamel, can cause irreversible tints in baby teeth. Consult a pediatric dentist if you are concerned about the color of your child's teeth. He may be able to help treat your child's teeth, give you additional dental hygiene tips and address concerns about your child's health.