Why Are My Child’s Teeth Yellow?

Aug 25, 2021

Every child’s first permanent tooth is a milestone to celebrate. But it can be hard to jump for joy once you notice their new adult tooth is yellow or darker in color than their baby teeth. At Stellar Kids Dentistry in Mukilteo, Mill Creek, and Everett, Washington, we understand your concerns. Most parents expect new teeth to grow in white and free of decay.

Fortunately, tooth decay isn’t the most common reason children’s permanent teeth erupt more yellow in color than baby teeth. A number of different factors can influence the color of your little one’s teeth. Let’s discuss why baby teeth look more yellow than adult teeth and what you can do to ensure they remain healthy.

How are permanent teeth different from baby teeth?

All humans need baby teeth and adult teeth to maintain good oral health. While they maintain the same functions, they have several key differences that all parents should know:


As adults, we have 32 permanent teeth. Young children, however, only have 20. This is because their mouths are too small to hold any additional teeth. Children with baby teeth, or milk teeth, only have one set of first molars and second molars, while adults have an additional two sets of premolars and one pair of third molars in the upper and lower jaw.


Baby teeth are much smaller than adult teeth because they must accommodate a child’s smaller jaw. As your little one’s mouth and jaw grows, their baby teeth slowly fall out and are replaced by larger permanent teeth.


Believe it or not, milk teeth aren’t just smaller than permanent teeth. They’re also a lot softer. Baby teeth have far thinner enamel than their larger counterparts, which is one of the main reasons why small children are more prone to cavities than adults. Milk teeth are also more vulnerable to wear-and-tear from bruxism, or teeth grinding.

Tooth Chambers

Every tooth has a pulp chamber. This hollow center holds the tooth pulp, a soft material that contains blood vessels and nerves. While the pulp is highly important for tooth development, it doesn’t serve the same function in adult teeth. That’s why the pulp is removed through root canal therapy if you have severe tooth decay or a tooth infection.

The pulp chamber in milk teeth is much larger than in adult teeth, which is why children are at risk of infection and inflammation.


Milk teeth are typically just as white as their name suggests. That’s why, when your child’s permanent teeth start growing in, you might wonder: “Why are my child’s teeth yellow?” 

This is a question we hear often at Stellar Kids Dentistry in Mukilteo, Mill Creek, and Everett. The answer is, baby teeth simply look whiter next to permanent teeth, because they are! As a result, your child’s permanent teeth might look yellow in comparison.

Less Common Reasons for Yellow Teeth in Children

While the color difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth is the primary reason the latter often appear more yellow, other common reasons for yellow teeth in children include:

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, or a cavity, is the result of a buildup of plaque on the teeth. This sticky film of bacteria eats away at protective tooth enamel and forms a small hole that tends to grow with time. The best way to prevent tooth decay is to:

Always get in touch with your kids’ dentist at Stellar Kids if you’re concerned about cavities. Tooth decay is treatable in its early stages, so the sooner you seek treatment, the better.


Several medications, such as the antibiotic tetracycline, can turn teeth yellow. Talk to your general practitioner about these medications if you’re pregnant or if your child is under the age of 8.


If your child suffers a serious injury to the mouth, the blood vessels in their teeth can rupture, which darkens their appearance. Their teeth may look yellow, brown, or even gray.

Still have questions about the color of your child’s teeth? Call Stellar Kids Dentistry or schedule an appointment online today to speak with an experienced kids’ dentist!