Ask the Doctor
Q. My child’s permanent teeth are coming in and they are darker than her baby teeth. Is this normal?
A. When permanent teeth begin erupting in children, parents are often shocked by their size and color. However, it is normal for permanent teeth to be darker than primary teeth and once all permanent teeth are in place, this new color will look fine. Teeth are comprised of three basic layers. The center is the pulp, the middle layer is dentin and the outer layer is enamel. Both dentin and enamel come in a range of shades including grays and yellows, but dentin is usually the darker of the two substances. Permanent tooth enamel is semi-translucent, so the dentinal color shows through in the body of the tooth. However, in primary teeth, the pulp is large and the dentin and enamel layers are thin. The enamel in primary teeth is also more opaque due to a less organized crystalline structure. This does a better job masking color in the dentin. The opacity also allows more light to be reflected to the eye, making the tooth appear whiter.