Teeth becoming stained at gumline

My son is 18 months-old. He has several teeth. The teeth initially were pearly white, but as they continue to grow, they are becoming discolored at the base. We have always wiped his teeth down with a damp paper towel after each meal. Any suggestions on what it might be? He has taken amoxicillin for ear infections. Could this drug discolor his teeth?

Question:

While certain illnesses and medications can affect the color and/or structure of teeth when they are developing, it is not as common for the illnesses or medications to affect the teeth after they have already developed. Teeth that are discolored internally as a result of some cause during their development are said to have intrinsic staining. Teeth that become discolored after development are said to have extrinsic staining. It sounds as if your son's teeth are extrinsically stained.

Extrinsic or exogenous stains can be caused by dietary substances such as coffee, red wine, or tobacco. These causes can probably be ruled out in your son's case since he is only 8 month's old. Grape juice can also stain teeth.

Color changes can also be caused by chromogenic bacteria found in dental plaque. These bacteria are believed to be responsible for brown, black, green, and orange stains. Brown and black stains are typically seen along the gumline of the teeth, either as a thin line or as a broad band. The green stain can be challenging to remove and is generally found on the facial (cheek or lip side) surfaces of the upper front teeth. The orange or orange-yellow stains are usually close to the gum tissue. These stains are easily removed.

Because the stain is most likely due to the bacteria present in plaque, good homecare and a professional cleaning should remove the stains. While it sounds as if you are trying to take good care of his teeth, brushing them now will help keep them cleaner than simply wiping them with a paper towel. It is important to brush them at least twice daily. In addition, flossing them at least once per day will be helpful as well. A dental visit for your son is advised. Perhaps the dentist will be able to examine his teeth to determine that the staining is indeed plaque-related. If not, at least your son will have an introduction to the dental environment. This may prove beneficial for any dental work that may need to be completed in the future.

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