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Why Are My Child’s Baby Teeth So White?

February 20th, 2019

One of the most charming aspects of your baby’s beautiful smile is his brilliantly white teeth. But now that his adult teeth are coming in, the difference in color is very noticeable. Is this something to be concerned about? Happily, probably not.

Both baby teeth and adult teeth have the same basic structure. The inside of the tooth, the pulp, contains blood vessels and nerves. The pulp is covered by a layer of dentin, a hard, yellowish substance composed of living tissue that helps protect the pulp and transmits signals for pain, pressure, and temperature. Enamel is the outer protective covering of the tooth, and its natural color can vary from greyish-white to light yellow.

If primary and permanent teeth are so alike, how can they look so different? As with so many things, the difference lies in the details. In adult teeth, enamel is semi-translucent, so it will allow the color of what is beneath it to show through. And the color of the thick dentin beneath is naturally yellow. Baby teeth have a thinner layer of the yellowish dentin. And while their enamel is also thinner, the enamel in baby teeth is generally whiter and more opaque, so less of the underlying yellow from the dentin is visible.

The result of these small differences is that adult teeth are normally darker than baby teeth to begin with. And when a permanent tooth that is just a bit darker erupts next to a bright white baby tooth, it is going to look even more yellow than it actually is. Once all of the baby teeth in front have been replaced with adult teeth, you will have a much better idea of their real color without unflattering comparisons!

There are times when concerns about tooth color should be looked at by Dr. Steven Demetriou more closely.

  • Unusual discoloration in teeth should be examined. Some discoloration is caused by medical conditions such as hypomineralization, some by environmental factors such as excess fluoride, some by trauma, some by medication. If you notice a discolored section of your child’s tooth, or the tooth has turned a different shade from the teeth around it, give us a call.
  • Your child might have naturally whiter or yellower teeth simply as a matter of genetics. If your child is self-conscious about the color of his teeth, we can talk about whitening solutions when he is old enough to use them safely. Home whitening products should never be used on young children.

Give yourself time to adjust to your child’s new, adult smile. You will probably notice no difference at all once all of his permanent teeth come in. And keep those new teeth their brightest with consistent brushing and flossing, and regular checkups and cleanings at our Tewksbury, MA office. This is the simplest prescription for a charming, white, and healthy smile at any age.

Smile! It’s Time for Arts & Crafts!

February 13th, 2019

If you have a child who loves arts and crafts, try some of these creative projects with a dental twist. One of these activities is sure to give your child something to smile about!

Toothbrush Art

Why throw away that used toothbrush when you can help your young child make art with it? Give it one more cleaning and a second life. The easy-to-grip handle and the wide bristles make a toothbrush easy for young hands to hold and paint with. If you are in an adventurous mood, use the brush to make splatter art. Your child can splatter an entire sheet of paper for an abstract effect, make a sky full of stars with a flick of the brush, or add splatter leaves to a tree scene. Cut out a stencil with a favorite shape (an animal, a flower, a toy), place it on a sheet of paper, splatter around it, remove the cutout, and—instant silhouette!

Paper Crafts

If your child is an origami enthusiast, there are some challenging dental-themed examples available online. These might be too advanced for beginners, but more experienced origami fans can make molars with roots and even molars lined with pink paper to symbolize the interior pulp. Younger paper artists might enjoy making construction paper models of an actual tooth, with white enamel, yellow dentin, and pink pulp layered in their proper order.

Sculpting Fun

For the scientifically minded young artist, clay can be used to make a 3D model of a tooth, with different colored clays representing the different layers of the tooth. Younger children learning about their teeth might enjoy fitting little white clay teeth into a pink clay crescent to show how baby (or adult) teeth fit into the gums. And for non-dental inspiration, old, clean toothbrushes can once again help out if your child likes sculpting art work with modeling clay. Add interesting texture by using the brush bristles on damp clay to create grooves, lines, or indentations.

Welcome the Tooth Fairy

If the Tooth Fairy is a regular visitor, make her welcome with a box decorated with paint or fabric to hold that special baby tooth. Or craft a pouch or a bag with fabrics scraps, and add a fabric tooth so that the Tooth Fairy will know she has come to the right spot. If you use felt and fabric glue, no sewing necessary! If your Tooth Fairy is an under-the-pillow traditionalist, decorate an envelope with a letter to the Tooth Fairy inside.

If some of these projects sound just right for your child, check out online craft sites for even more ideas. And, please be sure to have your children show and tell the next time they visit our Tewksbury, MA office. That will put a smile on our faces!

National Children’s Dental Health Month

February 6th, 2019

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and a perfect time for Dr. Steven Demetriou to review some of the important steps in keeping your child’s smile healthy!

Your Baby

Early care is best! Even before teeth appear, the American Dental Association recommends gently wiping your baby’s gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth after feeding. When his or her first tooth arrives, it’s time to schedule your child’s first visit. Our office will be happy to answer any questions you might have about brushing tools and techniques. This is also an opportunity to check not only tooth health, but jaw and teeth development. Check your baby’s teeth regularly, and call us if you have any concerns.

Your Preschooler

By the time children are three, they will probably have all or most of their baby teeth. Brushing your child’s teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled, child-sized brush is a great model for when your child begins brushing on his or her own. And when teeth begin to touch, flossing your child’s teeth is recommended once a day as well.  Remember to schedule regular checkups at our Tewksbury, MA office, and help make your toddler’s visit positive by reading books or watching videos about visiting the dentist, using playtime to practice things that might happen in the dentist’s chair (such as opening his or her mouth to count teeth), and planning visits during times your child is well-rested.

Your School-Age Child

Your child might be ready to take on brushing and flossing while you supervise, and there are many ways you can encourage both reluctant and enthusiastic brushers! The ADA recommends two minutes of careful brushing twice a day, or as directed by your dentist or physician. You can use these four important minutes to tell your child stories, listen to music, or brush together. Your child can help choose his or her toothbrush and toothpaste, or earn stickers for a brushing job well done. Stick to a routine for best results, and schedule regular checkups and cleanings to protect your child’s overall dental health. This is also an important age to check bite alignment, any potential orthodontic issues, and the possibility of sealants.

February might be the shortest month, but it’s a great time to consider your child’s life-long smile. If you have any questions or concerns, the team at our Tewksbury, MA office is always happy to discuss them with you—any time of year!

Should Children Use Whitening Products?

January 30th, 2019

As adults, we often wish our teeth could be as white as they were when we were small children. Baby teeth have thinner and whiter enamel than adult teeth, and those brilliant smiles are a result! But occasionally, you may be surprised to discover some staining or discoloration on those lovely first teeth. You might be tempted to apply a whitening product to your child’s teeth, but, please—read on!

Causes of Staining

  • Improper Brushing—Often, a loss of tooth whiteness means that plaque has built up on the tooth surface. Careful brushing is needed to remove bacteria and plaque, and if your child isn’t brushing at least twice a day for two minutes, discoloration can be the result.
  • Medications—When given in liquid form, or when added to formula or food, iron supplements can cause dark grey staining on the teeth. Medications taken by a mother while pregnant or breast feeding, such as tetracycline, can also lead to discoloration.
  • Injury—If a tooth suffers a serious injury, the tooth can darken because of changes inside the enamel.
  • Health conditions—Certain health problems can cause tooth discoloration, or sometimes children are born with weaker enamel that is more likely to stain.

If you have noticed any staining on your child’s primary teeth, call our Tewksbury, MA office. Simple stains can often be removed with better brushing techniques, and we can clean other surface stains in the office. Staining caused by an injury or a health condition is something we can discuss in detail with you. We can even use some professional whitening methods if those are indicated.

Why not just buy a home whitening kit for your child? There are several important reasons to leave these products on the shelf while your child is young.

  • Whitening kits are designed for adults. They have been tested for adult teeth in adult trials. Check the box for age appropriate use. Most products are not recommended for pre-teen children.
  • Remember that thinner enamel we mentioned earlier? Add to that the delicate skin of young children, and it’s sensible to be cautious about using a bleaching agent that can cause mouth and tooth sensitivity even in adults.
  • There is no body of evidence available as to the short and long term effects of using these products on children.

If you are concerned about the brightness of your child’s smile, please talk to Dr. Steven Demetriou. We can recommend better ways to brush at home, clean your child’s teeth in the office, or suggest professional methods of whitening if there are physical or psychological reasons that it would be valuable. But while your child is young, those off-the-shelf whitening products can wait a few more years.

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