Does Your Child Have A Discolored Tooth?

A discolored tooth can be a real worry for many parents. A tooth discoloration in children (and even adults) generally occurs from some sort of tooth trauma. It is believed that about 1/3rd of all children will suffer some sort of tooth trauma by age of 7. The discolored tooth may be a cause of embarrassment for a child, and the cosmetics of it may bother the parents. The issue that is most important is that a discolored tooth can lead to pain and infection.

Why Does A Tooth Change Color?

When an accident occurs involving a tooth, blood can leak out of blood vessels. The by products of this blood leakage (mainly iron) can make their way into the small tubules inside the tooth. These by products can cause a tooth to appear grey, brown, or even black. The color change usually does not happen right away. It can take about 2-3 weeks before the color change appears. The other color changes could be from deep tooth decay, or a pink/red looking tooth is usually caused by resorption.

Treatment For An Injured Tooth

The damage done inside the tooth is generally irreversible but sometimes it can be repaired especially if it is from decay only. The general rule of thumb is the darker the tooth the higher the likelihood, that the nerve of the tooth has died. If your child’s tooth has darkened the prudent thing to do is to have your child’s dentist examine it.  If there are other signs that the tooth is dead, has a deep cavity, is resorbing or shows signs of inflammation or an infection.

Many of these signs can be seen on the x-ray. The dentist will then diagnose the problem and recommend treatment. Treatments range from a root canal treatment, removing the tooth, or doing a filling or crown. If there is no sign of infection or other symptoms, the dentist may choose to leave the tooth alone. The tooth will eventually fall out on its own and it will maintain space in the meantime for the permanent tooth to erupt. Studies have shown that about 3/4’s of discolored primary teeth normally fall out on their own without any ill effect to the permanent teeth.

Other Color Changes

Other colors can include pink or red. Just like the other colors above, the tooth can turn right away or wait a few weeks. When a tooth turns red after an accident, it generally means a blood vessel has broken. When this happens, blood leaks inside the nerve of the tooth (pulp). This is referred to as pulpal hyperemia. This can be very difficult to diagnose and over time the tooth may darken as well.

The possible long term complication of this is that our body’s defenses may begin to resorb some of the internal layers of the tooth (called internal resorption). As the resorption occurs the pink or red color becomes more noticeable as the tooth structure becomes thinner and thinner. If this occurs, the teeth are either left alone until they fully resorb or they can be removed by your dentist. Resorption can also happen just prior to tooth eruption, the tooth is already on its way to falling out, and the permanent tooth pressure has caused it to resorb from the inside out.

Tooth Discoloration Conclusion

It is the nature of the parent to want to treat their children as quickly as possible. That is precisely what should be done. If you have any concerns about changes in your child’s teeth you should see your dentist immediately to diagnose the problem. Do not leave a potential infection unchecked, ask your dentist what your options are, and make an informed decision in your child’s dental treatment.