Dark or Discolored Teeth

Teeth may appear dark for many reasons.

  • Foods (marinara sauce, red wine, coffee, tea, berries)
  • Tetracycline staining
  • Tooth Decay
  • Trauma to the tooth
  • Smoking
  • Metal fillings or crowns
  • History of the root canal on the tooth

Food staining – The most common reason is staining from the foods that we eat. The great news is that this can be improved with a good cleaning with one of our thorough and knowledgeable hygienists.

Tetracycline staining – This type of staining occurs when exposure to the antibiotic Tetracycline during the development of the tooth. It will result in darkened teeth with a gray hue. The degree of darkening will vary. In some cases, external whitening will improve the tooth's appearance; however, Tetracycline-stained teeth are the most difficult to whiten. Sometimes the only solution is to cover the tooth with either a porcelain laminate or a crown.

Tooth decay – It is easy to improve the aesthetic appearance of the tooth by cleaning out the tooth decay and placing a tooth-colored filling to repair the structure.

Trauma – Sometimes, dental trauma can result in internal bleeding of the tooth pulp. The trauma will result in the iron molecules of the hemoglobin staining the inner aspect of the tooth. If the tooth needs a root canal, it may be internally bleached to improve its appearance. If no root canal was necessary, then bonding or porcelain coverage of the tooth may be required.

Smoking – The byproducts of smoking harm your lungs and soft tissues, and your teeth. The staining is tenacious and difficult to remove; however, our hygienists have some tricks up their sleeve. A good thorough cleaning will usually eliminate most staining secondary to smoking. One may whiten after the cleaning.

Metal fillings, when significant, can cause a tooth to appear gray and discolored. These teeth usually end up needing crowns. With today’s technology, we can often fabricate a new crown in the office on the same day. An older, metal-based crown can be replaced with a newer zirconia-based or porcelain-based crown. Our office philosophy is to be conservative. We do not recommend replacing metal fillings or crowns unless there is a weakening of the structure or failure of the integrity of the restoration. We will only replace fillings or crowns electively when the patient strongly requests it.

Root canal history – Root canals are often necessary due to trauma or failed large metal fillings. These will leave staining on the inner structure of the tooth. In addition, a tooth does discolor overtime after receiving a root canal. Internal bleaching will help to improve the shade of the tooth.


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