Last month I saw an endodontist for a left canine tooth that has gotten darker and darker over the past four years. The endodontist examined my tooth and took an x-ray. She said there is a faint fracture across the tooth, and I have the option of getting a root canal.
I think that I will pass on the root canal because the endodontist didn’t think that it would improve the tooth color. I’ve never had a root canal, but it seems that the tooth would become weak from her description of it. I’m afraid of making things worse and causing the tooth to fall out. Then I would need a dental implant. Will a cosmetic procedure help or would it weaken the tooth, too? – Thank you, Rene from Montgomery, AL
You are wise to pass on getting root canal treatment. If your tooth is not infected, you do not need the procedure. And if your tooth is fractured, root canal treatment increases the risk of causing the fracture to expand.
Why Causes a Tooth to Turn Dark?
A tooth can turn dark for several reasons, including trauma, decay, amalgam fillings, some medications, a medical condition, and tobacco use.
- Trauma – When trauma affects your tooth, secondary dentin (the layer beneath the enamel) builds us. The buildup can darken the tooth and cause the tooth pulp (living tissue in the tooth) to shrink.
- Decay – Tooth decay destroys dental enamel and darkens teeth.
- Amalgam fillings – As they age, amalgam (silver), fillings darken and make teeth look dark.
- Prescription medication – Certain medications, including tetracycline and some antihistamines, can stain or darken teeth. Research side effects for any medication you are taking.
- Medical conditions – Liver disease, gastric reflux, eating disorder, some metabolic diseases are some medical conditions that can darken teeth.
- Tobacco – Smoking or chewing tobacco stains teeth.
- Poor oral hygiene – Stains, plaque, and tartar build up on teeth and discolor them.
Treatment for a Darkening Tooth
If your tooth is not decayed or infected and there is no other diagnosis for it, a cosmetic dentist can conceal the darkness with a porcelain veneer or composite bonding. An otherwise healthy tooth would not require extraction and a dental implant.
We recommend that you look for a skilled cosmetic dentist to apply the bonding. Advanced cosmetic dentists have a variety of composite in the office to blend the correct shades and match the color, gloss, and translucence of your natural teeth. Few general or family dentists have the training and materials required to achieve natural-looking results.
David Finley, DDS, of Monroe, LA, sponsors this post. Dr. Finley is an Accredited Fellow of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry.