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.
You're not going to be especially surprised to meet an adult with discolored teeth. Although you might privately think that anyone with yellow (or even brown) teeth should be making an urgent appointment with their dentist, this type of discoloration is quite common. What you might not expect is brown teeth in babies and toddlers. This can be both unexpected and alarming for parents, but there's usually a simple explanation. So why has one of your child's teeth turned brown?
A Minor Injury
It might be assumed that an adult's darkened tooth is due to inadequate dental hygiene. It's reasonable to think that this can't be the case with your child, as they haven't had their teeth long enough to experience this level of deterioration. It's more likely that your child has sustained a minor injury to the tooth and its surrounding tissues.
Trauma to the Tooth
Bumps and bruises are a part of life, arguably more so in childhood. Although the dental enamel and underlying dentin of a tooth don't have blood vessels or nerve endings, the pulp (nerve) at the center of the tooth certainly does. Trauma to a tooth (resulting from sufficient force) can actually cause bruising around the gum line. It may not be so easy to actually trace this outcome back to the event that caused it, as bruising will not develop until after the event.
A Bruised Tooth
This bruising can lead to discoloration around the gum line, and/or throughout the tooth's crown. The trauma has led to light bleeding of the tooth's pulp, depositing tiny amounts of blood into the body of the tooth, where it appears as a brown discoloration. It's generally not serious, but you still must have the tooth examined by your child's pediatric dentist.
A Dental Examination
A dentist must confirm that the tooth hasn't been displaced, either pushed out of its socket (extrusion), or further into the bone (intrusion). In the event of displacement, it might be necessary to temporarily splint the tooth to its neighbors so that it can heal. Even though the tooth will eventually be replaced by its permanent counterpart, any trauma can disrupt this process (which is largely dependent on the baby tooth maintaining a healthy root system), so even mild trauma to a baby tooth must be investigated and repaired as needed.
As far as the discoloration goes, no further action may be needed. The bruising is likely to subside of its own accord. If this doesn't happen as anticipated, talk to your child's dentist about cosmetic options to conceal this discoloration. Don't attempt to bleach or otherwise whiten your child's brown tooth at home.
A bruised tooth looks far worse than it actually is, but should always be checked by a dentist. Contact a pediatric dentist for more information.