I have an annoying discolored tooth that shows when I smile. I admit, I’m a smoker (which won’t change) and I do drink a lot of coffee. I thought the tooth whitening strips would take care of it. But they are not working. In fact, it seem as if the tooth is actually looking darker. How can it be getting steadily darker, especially when I’m trying to treat it? I’ve even tried whitening the one tooth by cutting the strips smaller, but nothing is helping. How come the strips seem to whiten everything, but the one tooth I’m desperately trying to fix?
-Cheri in South Dakota
Well, it sounds like the strips are working on most of your teeth. But when they continue to lighten and the discolored one isn’t whitened, it may appear darker than before you started. It is concerning that the tooth isn’t responding to surface whitening. It is possible it may have been traumatized or may even be dead at this point. When a tooth turns gray from the outside, it is possible that the inside pulp is dying and it is showing up almost like a bruise.
You should make an appointment to have the tooth examined so the tooth can be properly diagnosed. If it is dead, this means there is no longer blood flowing to it. If the tooth isn’t treated, bacteria can breed and cause an infection, which is actually an abscess. The sooner the tooth is treated, the better. If this is indeed the case, a root canal treatment may still save the tooth. Then, the color can be addressed during the restorative phase with a matching porcelain crown.
Another possibility, if you find an expert cosmetic dentist, is to have the gray tooth lightened from the inside out. But, after a root canal, often times the tooth can become quite brittle. So the porcelain crown is likely going to be part of the recommended treatment plan. This will resolve the aesthetic issues you are trying to fix.
If you really want a beautiful smile that is uniform, you may be a candidate for porcelain veneers. But be sure you have a consultation with an excellent cosmetic dentist to blend in your porcelain crown with the surrounding veneers. Or you can have the teeth whitened before the crown, so the crown can be matched perfectly.
This post is sponsored by Barrington cosmetic dentist James T. Gavrilos, DDS