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Can children have teeth whitening & do they need it?

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Chhaya Chauhan

(GDC Number: 83940)

Below is a short FAQ made up of questions I’m sometimes asked about teeth whitening for children.

The important thing to state up front is that whiteness is not an indicator of the health of teeth. Whitening is purely a cosmetic treatment — it does not improve the health of your teeth or your child’s teeth.

Similarly, yellow teeth are not necessarily an indicator of unhealthy teeth. If teeth are yellow because of a buildup of calculus or plaque, this is something that should be addressed. However, it is addressed by cleaning the teeth (which the dentist or hygienist will do), not by using a whitening product or procedure on them.

Children brushing teeth with mother

Sadly, I’ve had children as young as 10 asking about teeth whitening. It simply isn’t necessary nor advised for them to have it, but whitening is so commonplace now that for some children and parent’s it is a needless concern.

With the FAQ below and with our hub of teeth whitening content we’re aiming to make sure the most accurate information about teeth whitening is available to you, and to make people aware that it’s completely OK to have yellow teeth. In-fact, it’s natural!

Let’s get started with this video where I talk about it in-person, and then I’ll run through the most common questions just below:

Can children have teeth whitening?

Do children need to have their teeth whitened if they are yellow?

No, they really don’t. Teeth naturally have a yellow base colour. This is the natural healthy colour of teeth and does not mean that there is anything wrong with the teeth. The bright white smile is a purely cosmetic viewpoint that unfortunately even children are buying into.

There may be many reasons teeth seem yellow when younger. They may look yellow in comparison to the very white milk teeth especially in the mixed dentition when there is a variety of baby teeth and adult teeth in the mouth.

Teeth may also seem yellow due to diet, for example if your child eats lots of strongly coloured foods like curries.

Sometimes teeth look yellow if there is a buildup of plaque and calculus. Improving your tooth brushing and oral hygiene can help with this. Visit your dentist if you are concerned and they will be able to give you advice based on your child’s teeth.

Child with stained teeth

Why do some children have more yellow teeth compared to others?

Everybody has different coloured teeth. Your tooth colour is determined by the amount of enamel and dentine in your tooth. Dentine is a yellower colour than white enamel. Yellow teeth can be perfectly healthy and dentine is a perfectly healthy (and necessary) part of the tooth anatomy.

At what age is it OK to start using whitening products?

If you or your child to want to start using whitening products, it’s best to wait until 18 years of age so that the teeth are fully developed.

Is there such a thing as kids whitening toothpaste?

Not as far as I know. I understand that white teeth are the trend but you must be extremely careful using a whitening product on children’s teeth. Some of them contain abrasive agents which can be damaging and wear the enamel away, resulting in even worse enamel at a young age. It’s best to stick to a healthy diet and have your child brush twice a day. Visit your dentist if you have any doubts.

Is it OK for kids to use other over-the-counter whitening products?

I wouldn’t encourage it and I’m not aware of any over-the-counter products (such as the whitening kits we talk about here) that are specifically made for children. If you do come across any that are advertised as child-friendly, I would be skeptical. Before using them you should check the ingredients and show your dentist.

Is there a way to whiten children’s teeth naturally?

No, not exactly. You can follow the usual advice of providing a good diet and brushing twice a day to help minimising staining. Avoid food that would stain a white shirt like curries or very colourful sweets.

Can an electric toothbrush whiten my child’s teeth?

Regular teeth brushing with the correct technique can help to keep stains to a minimum. An electric toothbrush is not required for this, but it can help. If you’re interested in this, you may find these articles of ours useful:

About Dr Chhaya Chauhan, BDS (Lond)

Chhaya is a general family dentist based in Essex. She graduated from Barts and The London school of Medicine and Dentistry in 2004 and completed her vocational training year in Peterborough. Since graduating she has completed her diploma exams and was awarded the MJDF from the prestigious Royal College of Surgeons in London.

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2 thoughts on “Can children have teeth whitening & do they need it?”

  1. My son has fluorosis on one of his front teeth… He’s only 6! Probably from me over brushing and usuonh too much toothpaste. Is there anything we can do when he’s older to avoid embarrassment?

    • Yes, potentially something can be done about it when he is a little older. Bleaching the teeth, to change the colour is one approach. It is best to speak to your child’s dentist as they can advise what is best based on his personal circumstances.

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