Patients, parents, and the news media request information on dental whitening for children and adolescents with increasing frequency.

Discoloration of teeth is classified by the cause or source. Due to that fact, it makes sense to seek professional consultation on the source of your child’s tooth or general discoloration. General causes include traumatic injury, irregularities in enamel coloration of a permanent tooth due to trauma or infection of the related primary tooth, or internal discoloration/staining like fluorosis, tetracycline staining. Teeth staining from metals (e.g., iron supplements) or consumption of tea, coffee, soft drinks, alcohol, and certain foods is external and easier to treat compared to internal tooth discoloration. 

Due to the difference in the thickness of enamel of primary and permanent teeth, tooth coloration may vary significantly during the mixed dentition (usually between ages 5-12). We don’t recommend bleaching when a patient is in mixed dentition. Adolescents present with unique dental needs, and the impact of tooth discoloration on an adolescent’s self-image could be considered an indication for bleaching. Tooth whitening has been successful in adolescent patients using typical bleaching agents, but research is lacking on the effects of bleaching on the baby teeth. 

Treatment under dental professional guidance offers several advantages. A pretreatment dental assessment helps identify pulpal pathology that may be associated with a single discolored tooth. This examination also identifies restorations that are faulty or could be affected by the bleaching process and the associated costs for replacing such restorations to maximize esthetic results.

If your adolescent child is concerned about the appearance or discoloration of his or her teeth, talk to Dr. Apata about the treatment options available.

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