Gray Tooth

I have never had a cavity, but last year my dentist pointed out that I have a gray tooth. He didn’t explain if I needed a filling, root canal or simple whitening. He never explained what that meant or what I should do. After the appointment I suffered great anxiety and couldn’t bring myself to go back. My fear is that the gray tooth is dead. What can I do?

Thank you.


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Dear Jean,

When a tooth turns gray it is often a sign of a dying nerve. Yet clearly your dentist was unsure if it was a cavity or something more serious. In fact the x-ray was not definitive to the dentist. With tooth trauma or dental decay a tooth can die. And it can happen for no apparent reason. Usually there is a pain associated with a dying tooth and one might experience sensitivity and possible pain when this situation arises. Yet if there is no pain or sensitivity occurring, most likely the nerve of the tooth has already died. Individual teeth can die from a heavy biting or clenching force which causes the blood supply to the nerve to become reduced causing death to a tooth. It is hard to know if a tooth is dying especially if there is no pain. There would be no trigger to alert a patient. And yet there may be a dead nerve tissue. However, graying is always a possible indicator. Doing nothing allows the deteriorating tissue to be feasted upon by bacteria which will definitely trigger an infection.

We strongly recommend that you set an appointment for your dentist to take another x-ray to see if the tooth is in fact gray. If your new dentist is also uncertain then we recommend that you schedule an appointment with an Endodontist. An Endodontist has more specialized schooling in these matters and their focus is root canal treatments and nerves. They also have better equipment and apply different techniques that will be able to better ascertain if the tooth is dead.

This post was provided by Elgin dentist Dr. Steve Sirin.

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