Tooth discoloration is common–especially as we age. Our teeth can turn yellow because of staining from food, drinks and tobacco use. But graying teeth can be more of a mystery. Why do our teeth turn gray? And why do some of us get a single gray tooth while others don’t change color? Here’s a look at some of the causes of gray teeth–and some ways your family dentist can help.
What Causes Gray Teeth?
Graying teeth are often caused by erosion or trauma to the enamel instead of staining or decay. Causes include:
- Root canals and other procedures can damage a tooth’s nerves, reducing blood flow to the area.
- Injury can damage the tooth’s enamel or nerves, sometimes leading to a “dead tooth.” Falling, a blow to the face, or even biting something wrong can injure your tooth.
- When trauma or decay cause extensive damage to your tooth, your dentist can’t always fix it. This can lead to a “dead” tooth causing a bluish-gray color.
- Dental work, including metal fillings, can give teeth a grayish cast.
- The aging process: your enamel can wear away as you age, causing discoloration and a yellow or grayish tinge.
- Certain acidic foods and drinks, including soft drinks and citrus, can accelerate enamel erosion.
- Medications, including antibiotics like tetracycline, can cause discoloration.
Does a Gray Tooth Mean I Have a Cavity?
Severe decay can cause a tooth to die and turn gray. However, in most cases, a gray tooth doesn’t indicate a common dental cavity. When you have a cavity, your tooth may darken in the area where decay has occurred. But a gray tooth is usually a sign of problems with the enamel or nerves.
Should I See My Dentist About Gray Teeth?
The fact that a gray tooth isn’t always related to tooth decay doesn’t mean you should skip the dentist. It may be a warning sign of a severe infection or nerve damage. So it’s a good idea to have your dentist take a look, even if you’re not experiencing pain.
Can My Dentist Help Me With Gray Teeth?
Traditional in-office tooth whitening treatments do a terrific job with run-of-the-mill staining. However, even the best whitening system often can’t help when our teeth turn gray. The problem isn’t staining but worn or damaged enamel or nerve damage, which usually requires a more in-depth cosmetic treatment. Here are some ways your family dentist can help with graying teeth:
- Ask your dentist if in-office whitening can help with discoloration.
- Talk with your dentist about replacing metal fillings with tooth-colored composite material for a more natural look.
- If you have a single tooth that has turned gray because of an injury or dental treatment, ask your dentist about bonding or a crown to cover the discoloration. Bonding is a simple procedure allowing your dentist to cover your discolored tooth with a composite resin. A crown is a more involved process that involves removing part of your existing tooth, but it may be your best option if you have cracks or chips in addition to discoloration.
- If you have a dead tooth with nerve damage, your dentist may recommend a root canal or an extraction. If your dentist needs to remove the tooth, he’ll replace it with a bridge or implant.
- If you have multiple gray teeth, veneers are an excellent option. Veneers can change your teeth’s color, size and shape by covering them with a thin layer of porcelain or composite material.
At Hall Family Dentistry, our mission is to keep your teeth and gums healthy while helping you feel happy and comfortable with your smile. Dr. Hall is happy to discuss cosmetic treatments for graying or discolored teeth. Our team will work with you to find the best possible solution to meet your needs and create a smile you can be proud of.