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Why a Child's New Adult Tooth Looks a Little Yellow

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Why do your child's permanent adult teeth look slightly yellow? This is a question that many parents ask themselves when their child's very first adult tooth develops. Sure, it's a bit concerning, but it's time to put those concerns aside.

Secondary Teeth

Not all newly-erupted permanent teeth (also called secondary teeth) will look yellow. In adults, yellow teeth are attributed to progressive extrinsic staining, happening over the course of many years. This is clearly not applicable in your child's case. It's helpful to consider the tooth's physical anatomy.

Tooth Anatomy

At the heart of the tooth is its nerve, also called the pulp (inside the pulp chamber). This is the tooth's living tissue where the tooth can register sensation (in fact, toothache is felt in the pulp). A thick layer of tooth structure called dentin wraps around the pulp chamber. This has a yellow hue and comprises most of the tooth's overall physical form. The outer layer of the tooth is enamel. It's both incredibly strong and slightly translucent. The anatomy is largely the same in both primary (baby) teeth and secondary (adult) teeth.

Different Layers

The difference in tooth anatomy from primary to secondary teeth is the size (and thickness) of the different layers. Your child's dentin layer is much thicker in their adult teeth than it was in their baby teeth. Due to the partial translucence of surface enamel, it may seem as though you can see the yellow dentin beneath it. 


Enamel doesn't thicken or develop any further once a tooth has erupted, but it appears to lose some of its translucence once your child's other adult teeth have erupted. Remember that you're looking at primary and secondary teeth right alongside each other, so a comparison is unavoidable. Adult teeth will have a different shade to their baby neighbours.

Mixed Effect

This mixed effect will disappear once your child's mixed dentition (having a combination of primary and secondary teeth) comes to an end. Yet, despite the fact that any alarm over the colour of your child's secondary teeth will subside when you see that their other adult teeth are the same colour—are there instances where the shade of a new permanent tooth should be further investigated?

Enamel Formation

Any newly-erupted secondary tooth will be seen by your dentist during your child's regular checkup, but should the tooth be a prominent shade of yellow, especially when contrasted to other adult teeth, then yes, schedule an appointment with your dentist. A distinctively yellow tooth can indicate that surface enamel may not have formed, and the tooth may need treatment to attach a synthetic replacement for absent enamel, such as a dental crown.

Slightly yellow adult teeth in children is quite normal. Anything more than slightly should be professionally assessed without delay. For more information, contact a dentist near you.