Grey Tooth

Many occasions we have patients who come to us with a single grey tooth. All of the adjacent teeth have a lighter color but this one sticks out, quite literally, like a sore thumb! And they invariably always ask “why is this tooth grey?” The photo below is a classic example:

Photo of grey tooth or gray teeth which usually means the tooth is dead or necrotic

Grey upper canine on a patient from Woodbridge, CT who came to our Orange, CT office. This tooth tested necrotic (dead). Photo and subsequent treatment by Dr. Nicholas Calcaterra.

In the above photo, you can see a single grey tooth adjacent to other teeth with more natural white/yellow colors. It is clear that there is definitely something different about this tooth. The nerve inside this particular tooth had died, leading to a grey color.

Why teeth can have a grey color

Teeth can develop a grey color due to many reasons. The most important question to ask is:

“Is one tooth grey or are all my teeth grey?”

Answering the question help us to understand why. The reasons for a grey color include:

tetracycline staining teeth photo at Orange and West Haven CT dentist

Lower teeth with tetracycline staining. Photo by Dr. Nicholas Calcaterra.

  • Use of antibiotics in the tetracycline family while the teeth are developing. Note that this leads to multiple teeth being affected.
  • Excess systemic fluoride consumption while the teeth are developing (this is called fluorosis). Note that this most often leads to multiple teeth being affected.
  • Certain genetic disorders that affect teeth formation (these are very rare). Note that this leads to all teeth being affected.
  • Extrinsic staining from tobacco smoke, certain foods, etc. Note that this leads to multiple teeth being affected.
  • The death of the nerve inside the tooth, most often from either trauma or from dental decay. Note that this leads to only one tooth being affected.

99% of the cases of grey teeth we see from patients in the Greater New Haven, CT are due to the death of the nerve inside the tooth. The other cases are more rare.

Treatment of the Single Grey Tooth

Successful treatment requires an accurate diagnosis. As mentioned above, nearly all cases of a single grey tooth are due to the death of the nerve of the tooth. Once this is confirmed, treatment requires two steps:

  1. Root Canal: in a root canal procedure, the dead nerve tissue is removed and a filling is placed deep inside the root. But this does not correct the color.
  2. Veneers or All Ceramic Crowns: This places a layer of durable ceramic over the tooth, masking the dark color and giving the tooth a life-like appearance.