How to Whiten a Dead Tooth

You brush twice a day, floss regularly, and avoid extra sugar to keep your teeth healthy and bright. Unfortunately, your bright smile has a dark spot – a dark tooth that appears gray or brown – that makes you self-conscious and uncomfortable, especially when meeting new people. The good news is there are several treatments to whiten a dead tooth and Dr. Hamby, an experienced Fuquay Varina dentist, is sharing the best options.

dark tooth repair from fuquay varina dentist

What Causes a Dark Tooth?

If you have a single dark tooth, it may be stained rather than dead. Extrinsic staining occurs when the enamel has surface stains from food, beverages, or smoking. Intrinsic staining occurs when the dentin underneath the enamel has darkened, making the tooth appear gray or brown. There are several reasons for discoloration:

  • Staining: If this tooth is set back or crooked compared to your other teeth, it may get brushed as thoroughly, leading to darkening or staining.
  • Excess fluoride: This is primarily seen in children, but if you were exposed to too high a concentration of fluoride, it can actually cause a tooth or few teeth to darken.
  • Antibiotics: Certain antibiotics, specifically tetracycline or doxycycline can lead to intrinsic staining.
  • Amalgam fillings: If you have dark or silver fillings on the back of your tooth, it may show through to the front.
  • Tooth trauma: Typically, this is the only cause of a dead tooth that otherwise looks healthy, meaning there’s no evidence of decay. When you receive an injury to a tooth from a fall or blow to the mouth, the blood flow to the nerve inside the tooth may be damaged. If the damage doesn’t heal, the nerve will die, blocking the flow of blood and nutrients into the tooth, causing it to darken and die over several months or years.

Determining Whether You Have a Dead Tooth

Before determining the path of treatment, your dentist will need to determine if the tooth is alive or not. This can be done in one of two ways:

  1. A cold cotton swab may be placed against the tooth. If you can feel the cold through the enamel, it’s alive.
  2. Electronic pulp testing sends a small electrical current into the tooth. If you feel tingling within the tooth, it’s alive.

Three Ways to Lighten a Dark Tooth

Now, let’s look at how your dentist might brighten your smile and reduce or eliminate the appearance of a dead tooth.

Teeth Whitening

If the tooth is alive and is discolored due to extrinsic or intrinsic staining, the easiest step you can take is to get professional teeth whitening. While over-the-counter whitening solutions don’t work for intrinsic stains, professional solutions are more powerful, and they can often lighten the appearance of a dark tooth caused by fluoride or antibiotics.


If the tooth is alive, but trauma has discolored it, or the stain is too significant to lighten, the next step will be to place a porcelain or resin veneer over the tooth. A veneer is an incredibly thin, custom-made shell designed to match your other teeth and is adhered to the tooth. This lasts up to ten years and can significantly elevate your smile.

Root Canal and Crown

If the nerve is dead, your tooth is prone to infection and a painful abscess. To prevent this from occurring, your dentist will perform a root canal that removes dead tissue within the tooth and seals the tooth to prevent future infection. Once the root canal is complete, a porcelain crown is placed over the tooth to provide protection, allow you to eat properly, and provide you with a beautiful, healthy smile.

Schedule a Checkup with a Family Dentist Today

Don’t hide your smile because of a dark tooth! Dr. Hamby and our team at Hamby Family Dental Center can restore a vibrant, healthy smile. Schedule a checkup and cleaning today by calling 919-552-2431, scheduling an appointment online, or filling out the form below to get started.

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