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Working With My Dentist

A few years ago, I realized that I was thinking about dental care all wrong. Instead of listening carefully to my dentist and making the necessary changes, I assumed that he was ultimately responsible for making sure that my teeth stayed healthy. Unfortunately, I developed a few serious cavities because I failed to properly brush and floss my teeth, and I knew that it was my fault. I decided to start taking notes at my dental checkups and carefully abiding by the dentist's orders. The difference was almost miraculous. This blog is all about working with your dentist to improve your result.

Working With My Dentist

Ask Your Dentist: Why Do Dead Teeth Change Color And How Can You Whiten Them?

Siiri Puro

60 percent of people aged 18 to 24 believe a brighter smile will boost their self-esteem. As such, discolored, dead teeth can seriously disrupt a perfect, white smile, prompting thousands of people to seek a cosmetic solution to the problem. Find out why dead teeth change color, and learn more about the whitening options available if this happens to you.

Why do dead teeth change color?

The nerves inside your teeth are critical to the development process, effectively helping your body build the teeth from the inside. Once a tooth has fully developed, the nerve is effectively redundant, but healthy teeth retain their nerves and normal blood supply. However, in the event of an infection, trauma or accident, irreparable damage to the nerve can take place. When this happens, the nerve dies, resulting in a dead or non-vital tooth.

When the tooth first dies, you probably won't notice any difference, but, over time, the tooth will change color. As the blood vessels in the dead nerve slowly break down, the color leaks into the tooth rather like a bruise. As more blood vessels break down, the tooth becomes darker and darker, and you cannot remove the discoloration with brushing or rinsing.

Is this just a cosmetic problem?

Dead teeth are not just a cosmetic problem. You may think that the tooth can no longer cause pain because the central nerve is dead, but this is not the case. As the nerve rots, bacteria can thrive inside the teeth. Without the healthy blood supply from the nerve, your body's immune system cannot kill the bacteria, and the infection will spread to the root of the tooth and the surrounding bone. Over time, this infection is likely to develop into an abscess, which can cause severe pain and other unpleasant side effects.

How can you whiten a dead tooth?

Normal bleaching treatments won't work on a dead tooth. Conventional tooth bleaching treatments only work on the surface enamel of the tooth, but discoloration from a dead tooth affects the interior dentin. As such, the only way to whiten a dead tooth is to carry out internal bleaching.

Before you can bleach a dead tooth, your dentist must carry out a root canal treatment. This type of treatment will remove all the dead and decayed material from inside the tooth. Once the root canal is complete, the dentist can use a bleaching chemical called sodium perborate inside the tooth.

The sodium perborate reacts with the stained dentin and restores the tooth's natural white color. Once the bleaching process is complete, the dentist will then seal the cavity as he or she would with any other root canal treatment. This stops bacteria getting back inside the tooth. The process will not necessarily fully restore the tooth's whiteness, and a dead tooth may still look different to other teeth.

What's more, while internal discoloration will not normally return, external stains and discoloration can still affect a dead tooth. As such, you must continue to treat a non-vital tooth like any other tooth in your mouth, with regular brushing, flossing and trips to the dentist.

When is whitening not an option?

Internal bleaching is normally effective if the dentist performs the root canal treatment relatively soon after the nerve dies. However, if a bacterial infection has reached other parts of your mouth, your dentist may recommend that he or she extracts the tooth because decay has caused problems with structural integrity. A root canal is only effective if the tooth is in relatively good condition. A long-term infection may result in too much damaged bone and tissue to complete a root canal treatment.

A dead tooth will often result in unsightly discoloration. If one of your teeth dies, talk to your dentist about the options available to you to restore your white smile. Visit a website like for more information.