Tooth trauma may not always cause immediate problems, but a strong enough impact can eventually cause the affected tooth to die and change color. This type of trauma is common in sports players, but many other types of accidental impact can lead to the same problem. Find out why damaged teeth change color, and learn what to expect if you decide to undergo internal tooth bleaching.
How trauma can make your teeth change color
Impact won't always crack or chip the affected teeth, but the trauma can still cause permanent damage. A knock to the tooth can cut off the blood supply at the root tip, which will eventually kill the pulp inside the tooth. When this happens, the tooth may then slowly change color.
Discoloration can take many forms. Traumatized teeth may darken to one of several colors, including yellow, grey or black. The discoloration occurs because of the dying blood cells inside the tooth, and, without treatment, the problem won't go away. The discoloration itself is not painful, but you may still experience pain as the nerve dies away. Swelling, a bad taste and/or a pimple on the gum may also indicate that you have an abscess.
How internal bleaching works
Internal bleaching is the only way to deal with tooth discoloration from trauma. Other bleaching or whitening products can only deal with the surface of the tooth, and the damage from trauma only affects the interior. Extraction is one solution, but if the tooth doesn't show signs of any other type of structural damage, a dentist will normally suggest a root canal treatment and internal bleaching.
Internal bleaching through a root canal treatment is a simple procedure that many people in the United States undergo, and the process involves five main steps.
Your dentist will:
Take an X-ray of the affected tooth to look for other hidden problems that could compromise the tooth's structure.
Drill a small hole in the tooth to expose the pulp space, before irrigating the canal to remove dead pulp and tissue.
Seal the top end of the root canal with special cement.
Place a bleaching agent inside the root canal, before sealing the other end of the canal with a temporary cap.
Remove the temporary cap when the tooth is the desired color and fill the cavity with a permanent seal.
Dentists often use hydrogen peroxide to bleach the tooth. This chemical releases oxygen, which breaks down the bond between the stain and the tooth, making it easier to rinse away. Hydrogen peroxide also allows the tooth to absorb a greater number of color wavelengths, so patients often get the brilliant white they are looking for. For severe or dark stains, the dentist may need to replace the bleaching agent several times.
Studies suggest that internal bleaching is a safe, effective treatment method. One study looked at the effects of internal bleaching in patients five years after they underwent internal bleaching. The study found that 90 percent of the people involved saw good esthetic results with no detrimental effects on dental hard tissue.
Nonetheless, it's important to discuss the risks of this treatment method with your dentist. Any root canal treatment can cause problems if the dentist is unable to get rid of all the decayed pulp and bacteria. Similarly, trauma can sometimes cause a tiny crack in the root that the dentist may not see. In this case, you may need further treatment.
Trauma to one or more of your teeth may result in damage to the root that is not immediately evident, but discoloration may eventually occur in a damaged tooth. Talk to your dentist for more information and advice about how internal bleaching can help you deal with any unsightly discoloration.