Have you noticed one of your teeth has turned gray? Did something happen and now your tooth enamel is off-color with a grayish hue? This tooth discoloration a common problem, but the good news is that it isn’t necessarily tooth decay and it can be remedied.
The most common cause of gray tooth discoloration is trauma to the tooth enamel. This often occurs when people fall or are hit in the mouth and the nerve in the tooth is damaged. When a tooth turns gray after a trauma or dental treatment like a root canal treatment, it usually doesn’t mean much other than the tooth being a different color. You don’t suddenly develop a cavity or rotten tooth because of a fall. If you’re injured and it affects your teeth, it’s important to have the problem checked out by a dentist. In most cases, the only way you’ll need to treat the tooth for function is if it develops an infection or if problems arise later on for that tooth.
Teeth can also turn gray as the enamel wears away over the years. This is a natural part of aging, but it doesn’t need to be as bad as it is for some people. Enamel is damaged when we eat a lot of acidic foods and drink soda and juice that contain a lot of acid. The more you expose your teeth to food and drink that’s unhealthy for enamel, the more it will wear away and over the years, you’ll be able to see the inside of the tooth—the reason why you see transparency or grayness.
Treating your teeth can also cause grayness. For instance, if you have a cavity filled with a silver filling, there’s a chance you’ll be able to see the filling color through the side of the tooth. And, if you’re forced to undergo root canal treatment and the nerve in the tooth is disabled, it might turn gray over time.
It’s also possible for things that have nothing to do with your dental health directly to affect the color of your teeth. Sometimes, children who take an antibiotic known as tetracycline develop gray teeth. It’s also possible for babies to eventually have issues with their teeth if their mom’s take medication while they are pregnant. If your doctor prescribes any medication while you’re pregnant and you’re concerned about your baby’s eventual dental health, make sure you ask about side effects.
Is It Possible to Treat Gray Teeth?
Modern cosmetic dentistry makes it easier than ever to correct discoloration of teeth. It’s important to focus first on whether there is a functional problem, but once you’ve established your tooth needs no medical treatment, you can focus on how to restore the color of the tooth to normal.
There are a few whitening options that can be used at home or administered in your dentist’s office. If you’re concerned about a gray tooth, you can speak to your dentist or schedule a consultation to talk about your whitening options.
One of the most comprehensive ways to improve the color of your teeth is to get porcelain veneers. Veneers are placed over your natural teeth and give you as perfect a smile as possible. The picture-perfect smiles you see on movie stars and models are often due to veneers. In addition to fixing discoloration, porcelain veneers can also help if your teeth are chipped, cracked, broken, or crooked.
If you’re in the process of having dental work done and you have concerns about graying, you’ll want to speak to your dentist about your options regarding fillings. Composite fillings are tooth colored and your dentist will do their best to match your natural tooth shade. Many people consider composite fillings safer and in most cases, it won’t even be possible to tell your tooth is filled. If you must undergo a root canal, have a tooth colored crown put on the tooth as soon as possible. This not only prevents the appearance of a gray tooth, it also protects the tooth so you won’t be forced to one day have it pulled.
Is My Tooth Gray because It’s Dead?
It’s possible for teeth to die. Fortunately, the problem isn’t quite as severe as it sounds.
A tooth is considered dead when the nerve no longer functions. Everything inside the tooth (the nerve and the blood cells) are no longer functioning. This is the case after a root canal.
“Frequently dried blood cells from the pulp get trapped in the crown portion of a dead tooth. This causes the blue/gray color to shine through the translucent enamel layer. It is much like superficial veins that look blue under your skin.”
Root canals remove tooth pulp, which is the innermost part of a tooth. It’s the living tissue that helps the tooth develop and it’s the part that causes pain when you develop an infection or drink an icy cold beverage. Pulp plays an important role when teeth are developing, but it doesn’t do much once you have a full-grown tooth. Dead teeth might be able to remain in the mouth, but you’ll need to closely monitor the tooth for problems. Make sure you report any color changes, pain, or abscesses that develop to your dentist as soon as possible.
Dead teeth can create problems because the hollow space where the pulp once was can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria. This leads to the development of an abscess, which is painful and unpleasant. If a tooth dies and it gives you problems, you might need a root canal or you might need to have the tooth removed. Dentists try not to remove a tooth completely because it can create other problems, but sometimes it’s the best option.
If you and your dentist decide to leave the tooth in place and use a root canal to remedy any pain, you might need to undergo whitening in the future to keep the tooth looking healthy and consistent with your other teeth. Veneers are also an option, especially if the affected tooth in question isn’t the only one causing you concern.
The important thing to remember if you have concerns about graying teeth is that if you are bothered by the problem there are plenty of options available for correcting the problem. And now, more than ever before, it’s possible to correct gray teeth conveniently and affordably.