There are many causes of discolored front teeth. Genetics, drugs taken while the teeth are forming (such as tetracycline and fluoride), infected teeth, root canal treatment, smoking, and certain foods may contribute to dark or stained teeth.
- After a root canal
- For stains or discoloration caused by foods or smoking
TREATMENT AFTER ROOT CANAL
After a root canal, if the tooth isn’t broken, whitening may solve the problem. Your dentist makes a small opening in the back of the tooth and inserts a cotton pellet that contains a whitening agent, also called a bleach. Sometimes a heated instrument is applied to activate the bleach. The procedure may be repeated through a series of appointments to achieve the desired result. Periodic re-whitening (once a year or once every several years) may be necessary to maintain the tooth’s whiteness.
If the tooth has had a root canal and is broken or chipped, it may be necessary to crown the tooth. A crown covers and protects a tooth from further damage. Crowns made of porcelain or porcelain-covered metal can correct the discoloration that often occurs after root canal therapy.
If a front tooth is only minimally damaged and discolored, it may be possible to whiten it with the use of a porcelain veneer or with whitening followed by a veneer. A porcelain veneer is a thin shell of porcelain that generally covers the front and top of a front tooth. Because veneers are translucent, it may be necessary to periodically bleach the tooth to keep it looking white and natural.
STAIN OR DISCOLORATION CAUSED BY FOODS OR SMOKING
A whitening solution may be applied during a series of appointments in the dental office (this is called “power whitening”). The solution is activated with a special light or by a laser.
Home whitening has become extremely popular in recent years. A whitening tray is custom-fabricated, filled with whitening solution and then worn for several hours each day. Home whitening is generally more predictable, less expensive, and longer lasting than in-office whitening procedures. Note that over-the-counter whitening kits have whitening solutions that are generally much weaker than those provided by a dentist.
For a one-appointment solution to discolored teeth, dental bonding may be the answer. After lightly roughening the teeth, the dentist places a plastic bonding material on the teeth, sculpts and shapes it, and then hardens it with a high-intensity light.
A number of factors can contribute to tooth discoloration in back teeth, including genetics, drugs taken during tooth formation, infected teeth, root canal treatment, smoking and consumption of certain foods. However, silver amalgam fillings are the primary cause. Silver fillings contain copper, mercury, tin, and silver that can, over time, blacken the teeth and the gums.
Cosmetic dentists have several white filling materials they can use to replace dark silver fillings.
- Direct resins: These can be placed directly on the tooth in a single appointment. The correct shade of resin is selected, pressed into place, sculpted, hardened with a special light, and finally adjusted and polished. Direct resins are economical, strong, and adequate restorations but are generally less durable than the other white fillings in this category
- Indirect resins: The term “indirect” means that the restoration is constructed on a model in a lab rather than directly in a patient’s mouth. Involving a lab makes this a two-appointment procedure. A dental lab uses additional techniques to harden these restorations and make them significantly more durable.
- Indirect hybrid resins: Recently developed materials, indirect hybrid resins, combine the durability of porcelain with the flexibility of resin (plastic). Like indirect resins, these restorations are fabricated in a laboratory under heat and light. Two or more appointments are necessary, but the result is an extremely high-quality restoration.
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