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Parents are often concerned that their kids aren’t brushing effectively enough to clean well, and one of the most common questions we hear is related to the color of children’s teeth. Is it stain, plaque, or something else that is causing their teeth to be so dark?

The truth is that it’s usually not related to anything on the surface at all! Adult teeth are almost always more yellow than baby teeth, and that is because of some of the ways that permanent teeth are different from primary teeth. The first thing that is different is the yellow dentin inside of the teeth. Baby teeth have much less dentin, which is the inner hard part of the tooth. Also, primary dentin is usually a lighter color than permanent dentin. The second thing is that the ratio of dentin to enamel is higher in baby teeth, which means that the inner color of the dentin is more likely to be visible through the adult tooth enamel shell.

So when are you most likely to spot the difference between the two teeth? When your child’s smile, or dentition, is transitioning from baby teeth to adult teeth. This transitional dentition means that you will be able to see the baby teeth side by side with the new front adult teeth, and not only are they a different color, they are usually much bigger than the teeth they replaced.

Is there anything you can do to improve the color, then? As long as you make sure that there’s not a yellow film covering your child’s teeth, you should just leave the color alone until your child is a teen. Dr. Rossen doesn’t recommend any whitening toothpaste for children or that professional whitening be performed before the age of 14 because it’s just not known whether or not those products may affect growing teeth.

Yellow permanent teeth are not only perfectly normal, then, they’re expected! And as soon as the rest of the primary teeth are lost, you might not even notice that there was ever a difference at all.