Dental staining and tooth discoloration have a variety of causes, but the result is often the same: Children with stained and discolored teeth tend to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable about their smile.
Remedying discoloration through teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure that can improve a child’s mental health, self-image, and confidence.
Ashburn Children’s Dentistry provides cosmetic treatment options that can help your child achieve a brighter, whiter smile.
Causes of Teeth Discoloration
Children’s teeth whitening addresses discoloration that results from a variety of causes and behaviors.
Behaviors that cause teeth discoloration and staining include:
- Eating certain foods (citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato sauce, soda, dyed candies, cherries, pomegranates)
- Drinking lots of fruit juice, soda, hot chocolate, or coffee (especially without brushing afterward)
- Poor dental hygiene habits (including not brushing and flossing regularly)
- Medication use (including antihistamines like Benadryl and antibiotics like tetracycline and doxycycline)
- Using mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine or cetylpyridinium chloride
Behavioral changes can help slow or eliminate teeth discoloration, but they can’t necessarily reverse the damage that is already done.
Additionally, not all staining and discoloration is behavior-based. Discoloration can also be caused by other factors, such as:
- Tooth disease
- Medical treatments such as excessive radiation or chemotherapy
- Dental materials that have been used in restorative treatments
- Enamel damage
- Genetic factors (such as dentinogenesis imperfecta and amelogenesis imperfecta)
- Excessive fluoride exposure
- Dental trauma, such as a fall or blow to the jaw and teeth
Options for Children’s Teeth Whitening
There are several treatment options for discoloration that is caused by staining, food, drink, and poor hygiene habits.
The team of dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants at Ashburn Children’s Dentistry can provide you with more information about each of these options in order to help you make the best choice for your child.
Our preferred method of teeth whitening is to schedule a teeth whitening appointment with us, in our office, administered by our knowledgeable and experienced staff.
Whitening toothpaste is used to eliminate surface stains on your child’s teeth. It does not bleach the teeth, but abrades stains in order to remove them. It usually offers some improvement, but there will not be a dramatic change in the teeth’s appearance.
Your preferred local drugstore or superstore likely carries several brands of whitening toothpaste for a budget-friendly price. Whitening toothpaste is safe for use on permanent teeth, but you should always follow the instructions on the packaging and seek your dentist’s advice before using any new kind.
If your child experiences tooth sensitivity after using whitening toothpaste, discontinue using the toothpaste and contact your child’s dentist to discuss your options. Because these products use abrasive materials to remove stains, overuse may lead to thinned or damaged enamel.
Over-the-Counter Whitening Strips
Whitening strips are definitely a popular option among adults, and they may be a good option for adolescents and teens. You can purchase whitening strips from several brands at your local drugstore. The strips are very thin pieces of plastic that are coated in a safe peroxide-based formula.
These strips are applied directly to the teeth and left in place for about 30 minutes per day. It takes a few weeks of wearing them consistently for them to become effective. They don’t make a drastic difference in discoloration, but they usually create improvement for a few months before you need to re-do your treatment.
Staining may remain visible after treatment, and young children may be unlikely to wear the strips without messing with them or even swallowing them. We do not recommend whitening strips for children under the age of 12. Each brand will offer similar guidance.
A step up from whitening strips are whitening trays. You can purchase pre-made whitening trays from us, at the store or have trays custom-made by your dentist.
To use a whitening tray, you fill the top and bottom tray with a gel form of carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide and then place the trays on your teeth and wear them for the prescribed amount of time. That’s usually between 1–2 hours a day for several days in a row.
Store-bought whitening trays tend to be messy, with gel seeping out of the trays and into the wearer’s mouth. The gel may cause gum irritation, and it is frustrating to waste the bleaching solution.
When you get trays from your child’s dentist, they are made to custom-fit your child’s teeth. They stay in place and don’t spill out over the trays unless you overfill them with too much gel. Trays provided by the dentist also have a higher concentration of peroxide in the gel, which leads to longer-lasting and more dramatic results.
In-Office Whitening Appointments
Our preferred method for whitening children’s teeth is to schedule an in-office whitening appointment. When you have your child’s teeth professionally whitened in our office, the results are immediately noticeable, and you don’t have to deal with messy trays or strips.
Plus, you eliminate the possibility of “user error” when your dentist and hygienist perform the whitening process in the office. Your child’s teeth will be whitened under the direct supervision of trained professionals.
During an in-office whitening appointment, we protect the patient’s gums by creating a custom barrier. That way, the bleach does not get onto the patient’s teeth.
Next, we paint the bleaching gel solution onto our patient’s teeth with a brush. Finally, the whitening process is accelerated by shining a specialized light/laser on the gel for about 20 minutes, and then we remove the gel.
We are able to adjust the strength of the solution and the length of each treatment based on each patient’s unique needs. By increasing the strength of the solution, we can reduce the amount of time the patient needs to sit still under the light. If a child needs a lower strength solution, we can simply extend the amount of time that they need to sit under the light.
Some discoloration may not be resolved through bleaching techniques.
When necessary, we can use treatment options like dental veneers (including Lumineers) and cosmetic bonding.
We also work with all of our patients to develop good dental hygiene habits that will help prevent more staining and discoloration.
Is It Safe to Whiten a Child’s Teeth?
The options for whitening a child’s teeth are similar to methods available to adults. However, some teeth whitening strategies should only be implemented after a child has lost all of their baby teeth.
Baby teeth are more sensitive than adult teeth. It is important to speak to your dentist before trying any over-the-counter methods that could have negative side effects.
If a child is self-conscious about baby teeth that are stained or discolored, we can discuss the safest options for young children. When used correctly, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) describes whitening strips and other bleaching methods as safe for adolescent and teen patients.
After Your Child’s Teeth Whitening Appointment
For 48 hours after an in-office whitening treatment, you will want to avoid:
- Acidic foods
- Citrus fruits (including oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and clementines)
- Hot chocolate and coffee drinks
- Dark sauces (including tomato sauce)
Try to eat mostly light-colored foods, such as potatoes, pasta, chicken, oatmeal, eggs, and fish.
Be sure to have your child brush their teeth immediately after every meal to avoid future staining. Brushing multiple times a day also leads to improved dental health outcomes, a reduction in gum disease and tooth decay, and fewer dental interventions like fillings and crowns.
Teaching your child to practice good dental hygiene habits will go a long way in avoiding future stains. The team at Ashburn Children’s Dentistry can provide you with plenty of resources and education on how to help your child develop excellent dental hygiene habits.
Cosmetic Dentistry for Children in Ashburn, VA
Dr. Lynda, Dr. Krystle, and the team at Ashburn Children’s Dentistry provide comprehensive dental care, including cosmetic dentistry.
Thanks to the care they receive at Ashburn, children don’t have to be self-conscious about their smiles or nervous about trips to the dentist. We offer a safe and inviting environment to all of our patients, including toddlers, adolescents, and teens.
We have seen children go from anxious and embarrassed about their smile to happy and carefree, thanks to cosmetic treatments that support their overall dental health. We know that children who have healthy teeth and gums have better outcomes related to mental health, school performance, athletic performance, and more!
When you’re ready to talk about improving the brightness of your child’s smile, contact our offices to schedule an appointment.