Many years ago, I treated a patient who had been walking around with a single black tooth for the majority of his life. He was so conscious of smiling that he forgot how to smile. All of his previous dentists must have noticed it, but they told him there was nothing that could be done! I was so shocked. As a teeth whitening dentist serving the Sutton area, I know this is a simple procedure that can improve quality of life.
Let’s talk about options for treating single discoloured teeth. But first, let’s discuss what causes the tooth to be dark in the first place.
What causes teeth to go black?
The most common reason that teeth go dark is from dental decay. This is caused by poor cleaning habits, not using a fluoride toothpaste, and eating a high sugar diet. A black tooth caused by dental decay can be treated by using a white filling. We remove the decay and replace it with a tooth-coloured filling material. Most dentists should be able to do this to a reasonable standard.
The other reason is when the tooth dies off, and that is what I want to talk about in this blog. A tooth may die if it has suffered trauma (you have knocked the tooth somehow), or bacteria have got to the nerve and damaged it.
When the tooth dies off, the blood supply to it effectively stops. Blood remaining in the tooth has no-where to go and dissipates throughout the tooth, causing it to get darker. The pictures below show what this looks like.
Single dark teeth whitening solutions
What treatment options are available to lighten a tooth up?
- Tooth bleaching
This is the single best way to improve the colour of a discoloured tooth. A small hole needs to be drilled in the back of the tooth. This allows the bleach to get inside the tooth to work its magic. Bleaching trays are then made to hold the bleach. Every day you load the bleach in the bleaching trays and then wear them during the day or at night time. The tooth will gradually lighten until it matches the next tooth.
There are rare times, where we cannot get an exact match with the next tooth, but it will be a significant improvement. If you are not satisfied by the end result, then we would need to cover the tooth either with a white filling veneer or a porcelain veneer. The closer the colour of the darkened tooth is to the adjacent tooth, the easier it is to place a veneer and get a really good result. The picture below shows how we bleached a dark tooth. We recommended to change the existing filling, but the patient said she was happy with the result.
- Cover the tooth with a white filling or porcelain
Covering the tooth simply masks the dark colour. It really depends on what material you use, how “friendly” it is to the tooth, and how much it costs. If you are covering a dark tooth you need to a certain thickness of material to block out any of the dark colour showing through. The darker the tooth, the thicker the material needs to be, and the thicker the material, the more tooth that must be removed. If we didn’t remove any tooth, then the tooth would look too bulky and thick which would give a poor cosmetic result. Therefore, we always suggest bleaching a tooth first to see how close you can get it to the adjacent tooth. Nine tenths of the time, we get a very good match, but occasionally, we don’t get it 100 percent. So, we can add a very thin white filling or veneer to match the colour perfectly.
The patient below shows an example of when we bleached the tooth and then placed a very thin porcelain veneer to cover the tooth.
Sometimes, patients want us to cover the tooth with a white filling, without bleaching the tooth first, or without drilling any tooth away. When we do this, we always tell our patients we will never get a 100 percent perfect result, but should get a reasonable improvement. The picture below shows how a quick, thin white filling can get a significant improvement without having to bleach the tooth.
If you or anyone you know has experienced living with a single dark tooth, give our friendly team a call at 020 8629 1226 and we would be happy to see you. There are cheap, fast options available. Sometimes to get a significant improvement or for really dark teeth we spend a bit longer to get you a perfect result.