Trauma to a tooth -- perhaps from being hit, from a fall or from a vehicle accident -- can cause the nerve to die and the tooth to take on a yellowish color. This happens when the interior pulp dies and partially calcifies, creating the darker, yellow-brown shade that makes it stand out from your other teeth.
In many cases, the nerve issue must be treated first with a root canal procedure. But once your dentist has performed a root canal -- or ruled out the necessity for having one done -- you may still be left with discoloration. Here are three ways to restore your traumatized tooth's color to match the rest of your smile.
1. External bleaching.
This is the least invasive technique; the best results occur when your dentist performs the bleaching procedure in the office. Generally, a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide is used on the teeth to produce the desired results. It can take more than one visit to produce the correct shade.
Alternatively, your dentist may give you a lower concentration of carbamide peroxide and custom trays that you can use to apply the bleach at home. You will still need follow-up visits to ensure that the right shade of white is achieved.
2. Internal bleaching.
When the tooth's root is dead and the tissue has been removed, sometimes a little bit of pulp can be left behind. The blood breakdown of this pulp combines with hydrogen sulfide, a by-product of bacteria, and leads to a slightly brownish color that may or may not dissipate over time. This interior staining tends to show through the tooth and be hard to treat with other whitening methods.
In the internal bleaching procedure, the pulp chamber is cleaned carefully and opened, then a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide in a paste is applied internally and left on for several minutes. It is then sucked out and the process is repeated as needed to achieve the right shade. Usually, once the right shade is found, the interior chamber is filled with a tooth-colored resin so it can't get discolored again.
Previous internal bleaching techniques made it difficult to get the right shade, and even with today's technology, it's important to work with an experienced dentist to get the best results.
You may decide to forego whitening and get a porcelain veneer installed on the discolored tooth. While a veneer can look nice and be easy to match to your other teeth, it is not reversible and must be replaced if it cracks or breaks over time. It also makes it challenging to whiten your other teeth because it is easy to end up with two different shades.
In most cases, a traumatized tooth that is discolored can be bleached both internally and externally for lasting results that closely match your other teeth. Ask a local dentist, such as Fresh Wave Dental Care PC, about what is the right procedure for you.