Hickory NC Dentist Explains How We Whiten a Dark or Dead Tooth 

When a tooth is damaged due to a fall or accident, the blood supply to the nerve can become damaged, and eventually die. Since the tooth no longer receives blood and nutrients, it will turn dark eventually. If you are reading this article, you have doubtlessly had this situation happen to you, and are wondering if it’s possible to whiten your dead tooth without totally replacing it. The answer is that it’s possible, but depends on a variety of factors. Read on to learn more.

(*Note: Dentists refer to “dead” teeth as “non-vital.” However, we have chosen to use the term “dead” throughout this article to avoid confusion.)

Why is My Tooth Black, Gray, or Brown?

Not all darkened teeth are caused by the types of trauma we mentioned above. Darkened teeth can also be caused by:

  • Difference in cleaning. If the tooth is out of line from the rest of the teeth, it might not get the same treatment from your toothbrush as the others do, and thus appear darker.
  • Certain medications like antibiotics or fluoride supplements can darken teeth, especially when they are given in high dosages to young children.
  • Old fillings. Silver and metal fillings will darken over time, and sometimes the dark metal can show through.

In any of these situations, the treatment is easy. Stains can be polished and bleached off the tooth surface, and metal fillings can be replaced with tooth-colored resin. If the dark color is caused by a dead nerve, however, the treatment is more challenging.

The Internal Tooth Bleaching Process

Because a dead tooth’s stains are intrinsic (inside, rather than outside, the tooth), the bleaching agent needs to be placed inside the tooth, not on top of it. The process is as described below.

  • First, your dentist will make a small hole in the back of the tooth.
  • Then, they will remove any debris from the chamber.
  • Next, they will add a special cement to prevent the bleaching agent from leaking into the tooth’s roots.
  • Finally, some bleaching agent (commonly sodium perborate) will be placed in the empty pulp chamber, and temporarily sealed. The patient will usually need to return for one to four additional rounds of bleaching.
  • When the tooth reaches the desired color, a more permanent restoration will be used to seal that little hole — usually a tooth-colored filling material of composite resin.

Many times, this relatively conservative procedure will give your tooth all the lightening it needs. If it’s not enough, the tooth can be bleached externally as well. And if you still haven’t seen results (though this is rare), you may want to consider an external covering, like a veneer or crown.  To learn more about cosmetic dentistry in Hickory NC, call our office now to request an appointment!