Understanding the Reasons for a Darkened Tooth
Discolored teeth or a single darkened tooth can have an adverse effect on your confidence and self-esteem. If left untreated, the tooth may darken further and, depending on the underlying cause, could negatively impact your overall oral health.
We offer cosmetic dentistry treatments to improve the appearance of your smile. Dr. Bruce Wilderman at Artistic Expressions Dentistry in Philadelphia, PA understands the reasons for a darkened tooth and explains treatment options to address this issue.
Common Causes of Tooth Discoloration
There are several reasons why the teeth change color; some are easily treated with teeth whitening treatments, while others require the help of a dentist.
Reasons for tooth discoloration include:
- Food and Drink: Many of the products we consume, such as coffee, cola, tea, wine, and some foods, stain our teeth. Dental misalignment can make a single tooth challenging to reach with a toothbrush, which allows stains from food and drink to develop.
- Tobacco: Smoking or using chewing tobacco can change the color of teeth.
- Medications: Antibiotics, some prescriptions, radiation, and chemotherapy can affect the enamel and dentin of the teeth and contribute to a darkened color. In these cases, the pattern of staining is varied and usually affects multiple teeth.
- Materials Used in a Dental Office: Restorations made from silver-sulfide-containing materials can cause the teeth to look more gray or black in color.
- Genetic Factors: Some individuals naturally develop thicker tooth enamel than others. The baseline of a person’s teeth may appear lighter or darker due to the thickness of the dental enamel and the individual genetic make-up.
- Poor Dental Hygiene: Brushing, flossing, and mouthwash rinses work together to remove tartar, plaque, and topical stains produced by coffee, soda, and tobacco. The early stages of tooth decay may create white spots on the surface of a tooth. As the cavity grows, it typically takes on a tan, brown, or black shade.
- Age-related Darkening: As we get older, the outer layer of enamel begins to thin and wear away, exposing more of the underlying yellow or brownish-colored dentin.
- Trauma to the Tooth: Damage to a tooth due to a fall, accident, or other injury can discolor the affected tooth. When the discoloration is caused by trauma, it is deep within the dentin of the tooth and difficult to mask. Based on the significance of the damage, the nerve within the tooth may die. This can cause a darker appearance and make the tooth more prone to infection.
- Dead Tooth: When a tooth dies, it will gradually darken. The two leading causes of a dead tooth are decay or trauma.
What Treatment Options Are Available for Dark Teeth?
The color, location, and surface texture of a tooth stain provide clues to its cause. Our dental office offers a range of cosmetic dentistry treatment options. Based on the reasons for discoloration, treatment may include:
- In-office cosmetic whitening treatments, such as
- Bleaching all of the teeth
- Custom-fitted tooth whitening trays to focus on one darkened tooth
- Internal tooth bleaching
- Porcelain veneers or crowns placed over discolored teeth
- Extraction, followed by placing an implant or bridge
For surface stains, you may only need to:
- Improve oral hygiene habits
- Avoid stain-causing foods and drinks
- Use over-the-counter whitening products
- Use a custom home whitening kit
If you’ve tried everything to create a whiter and brighter smile and seen little or no change, contact us online or call us today at 215-631-3085 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Wilderman.