One front tooth is discolored – Problems and their solutions

There are many causes for the discoloration or staining of teeth and molars. A lot of people think they have to settle with tooth discoloration or yellow teeth, but there are options to help you regain your confidence and smile and prevent further damage to your teeth.

While the dental profession has come a long way in fixing teeth, knowing the cause of the discoloration will help determine what treatments are possible and which treatment options will give you the best results for your teeth.

There are also many options to whiten your teeth overall once you’ve dealt with the front tooth, and teeth whitening cost does not have to be expensive.

Causes of Tooth Discoloration

Some reasons for tooth discoloration and loss of tooth enamel include:

  • Acidic foods. Lemons, oranges, tomato sauce, curry, and other acidic foods that come in contact with your teeth can erode tooth enamel, exposing the yellow dentin beneath. Some foods can also cause stains on your teeth. There are also many foods that whiten teeth! Add these to your diet.
  • Beverages. Stains from coffee, wine, fruit juices, tea, and other beverages are common due again to erosion of tooth enamel.
  • Tobacco Use. Chewing tobacco or cigarette smoking can cause yellow stains to the teeth. This staining is due to the presence of tar and nicotine.
  • Medications. In young children, some medications can limit enamel formation, causing tooth discoloration issues in the future. Other drugs can cause stains inside the tooth which alters light reflection and makes the teeth appear stained. Antihistamines can cause dry mouth which ultimately leads to not only staining, but other oral hygiene and health issues.
  • Aging. As we age, the enamel in our teeth wears and exposes the yellow-colored dentin directly beneath which appear as stains on the teeth. Many patients believe this is due to lack of hygiene or some other factor, when in reality, it’s part of the aging process.
  • Genetics. Many teeth issues can be traced back to genetics. Some issues are hereditary, like a stronger and whiter tooth enamel meaning less stains and overall dental issues.
  • Accident or trauma. As we’ll discuss later, patients who have experienced trauma to the teeth or mouth may have issues down the road.

Below are a number of causes of teeth discoloration and their specific treatment.

The tooth is slightly backwards

The tooth is discolored because it is slightly backwards.
The tooth is discolored because it is slightly backwards.

A tooth that is slightly backwards, so not neatly flush with the other teeth in your dental arch, will be less affected by your toothbrush and therefore often discolors superficially. The tooth is easy to clean by polishing, a simple treatment that your dentist or dental hygienist can perform.

If only the edges of the tooth have discoloration, it helps to floss well every day. Nowadays there is also whitening floss, a floss that cleans discolored teeth edges extra well.

In general, if you have crooked teeth, you must pay close attention during the teeth cleaning process to ensure that all teeth are cleaned.

A dead front tooth

The tooth is discolored because it is avital (dead).
The tooth is discolored because it is avital (dead).

A dead front tooth can be recognized by a gray color. You may have had damage to the tooth enamel as the result of an accident or some other trauma that stops blood flow to the tooth. The discoloration doesn’t happen right away; in some cases, it may take years to turn gray. The appropriate treatment for discoloring a gray tooth is internal bleaching, a whitening technique that uses a chemical agent to improve discoloration.

Internal bleaching of a dead element

The first option that your dentist will recommend is to bleach inside the tooth. This is, after all, a fairly simple and relatively inexpensive treatment, often with an excellent end result. For internal bleaching, the tooth must have undergone a root canal. Usually this will already have happened after an accident or tooth trauma.

Sometimes a tooth only goes dark years after “the blow” and the dentist will test whether the element has indeed died and still perform a root canal treatment which is needed on a dead element. Otherwise inflammatory products end up in your body, damaging your general health. Due to the root canal, the root of the element is sealed off at the tip, like a cork on the bottle, so that this is no longer possible.

So the dead tooth has usually already undergone a canal treatment. For this treatment, the tooth was drilled open at the back and then filled. The advantage of internal bleaching is that this same opening can be used to apply a whitening agent to the tooth. The tooth is therefore not further damaged or weakened. The end result cannot be predicted precisely in advance, although sometimes additional treatment options must follow to improve the result even further.

An x-ray of a tooth with a root canal treatment.
An x-ray of a tooth with a root canal treatment.

Other possibilities

  • Apply a layer with tooth-colored filling material, the direct facing
  • Apply a porcelain facing
  • Place a crown on the element

To mask the gray color of a dead tooth, a tooth-colored layer can also be applied, like porcelain or plastic facing. Internal bleaching is usually the first choice of treatment, and the application of a facing follows if the bleaching has not had a hundred percent result. Bleaching has not been for nothing, it has probably made the tooth lighter in a number of shades, making it easier to make a beautiful facing.

The discoloration caused by dead teeth gives a specific problem for making facings. The discoloration comes from the inside, from the root canal. The tooth is thinnest where the tooth enters the gums, near the tooth neck. Here the root is closest to the surface and the gray discoloration is therefore most visible. The facing must also become thinner at this location, because it must fit smoothly on the element.

The thin covering of the facing in combination with the thin layer of tooth material on the spot over the root canal often lets the color shine through. Sometimes you keep a gray border at the top of the tooth or molar and the treatment is actually not that successful, but the end result may be better than without the treatment.

Sometimes you keep seeing a gray border at the top of the tooth or molar.
Sometimes you keep seeing a gray border at the top of the tooth or molar.

With crowns, the problem of a translucent gray tooth neck can be prevented. The disadvantage is that a lot of tooth tissue has to be sacrificed to make a crown. However, a dead tooth is always a bit brittle compared to a living tooth, so it is sometimes good to put a crown over it.

The advantage of a plastic facing compared to a porcelain facing is that a plastic facing is cheaper and can easily be repaired or supplemented in the event of wear. The advantage of a porcelain facing is that the restoration does not discolor. In fact, porcelain hardly wears at all. You will want to discuss both options with your dental professional when deciding the course of action for your teeth.

The advantage of crowns is that they are not transparent, so the discoloration is masked one hundred percent. The disadvantages of crowns are that they are more expensive than a facing and more dental tissue has to be sacrificed. Again, there are pros and cons here which your dental professional can help you sort out.

An element is discolored by an old amalgam dental filling

If an amalgam filling is present in a tooth or molar for a long time, metal parts can discolor the tooth enamel of the element. The tooth or molar then has a gray-blue stain. This discoloration cannot be removed by whitening your teeth. The metal parts will have to be ground away from the glaze, after which the hole can be repaired with a composite dental filling.

Of course, a crown can also be made on the element which is often a good option if the amalgam filling is very large. The element will still be considerably weakened, and a crown can restore the original strength.

Before a crown is made, your dentist or dental professional would prefer to remove any amalgam present. This will ensure that there is nothing behind the new restoration, as a solid and clean foundation is needed to be successful. This will ensure that there are no subsequent issues with your teeth and will make both you and your dentist happy!

A molar discolored by amalgam gray.
A molar discolored by amalgam gray.

An element has been discolored by an old composite filling

A discolored composite filling.
A discolored composite filling.

There is a composite dental filling in the element which is gray or yellow. In treating this, it appears that an advantage of composite over amalgam is that, if the connection is otherwise completely good, the dental filling does not have to be removed entirely. All you have to do is remove the stained top layer and replace it with new composite in the desired color. If the filling is very old, or it is not certain that the element below is still intact, it is best to replace the entire filling to prevent further damage to your teeth.

Filling on Front Tooth Discoloration

This requires a separate section as discolored teeth in the front of your mouth require special treatment to get the teeth whitening correct. Your smile depends on it.

To fix this issue, your dentist may recommend white composite dental fillings. Essentially, the fillings must be re-done. This is an acceptable solution, but the dentist must ensure that the dental fillings match your teeth perfectly. Otherwise, there will be a noticeable difference in one tooth, and your beautiful smile will be compromised.

Composite materials come in many shades, and it’s fairly straight forward to choose one that matches your teeth. You want your smile to look consistent across all teeth, but especially the ones that are most visible in the front.

Note that teeth whitening is not the way to solve this problem, as bleaching gels only work on natural teeth and not on composite materials.

Tooth discoloration caused by old root canal filling material

Discoloration by old root canal filling material.
Discoloration by old root canal filling material.

Root canal filling material used in the past can cause very nasty discolorations. Red, brown or orange, especially with the tooth neck. Dyes from these fillers have penetrated far into the tooth tissue after a long time. In this case, good results are rarely achieved with whitening. Often a crown is the most certain option, because a crown is not transparent, unlike a facing.


As with any dental procedure, it is important to discuss the pros and cons with your dentist or dental professional to ensure your teeth remain healthy, and that you pursue the most cost effective solution for your ongoing oral hygiene and smile.

Teeth whitening is not always the solution, as some discolorations are not due to stains but to underlying issues. Whitening will not fix the problem, and may make it worse. Teeth whitening is a staining technique to make your teeth whiter, and your dentist should know which procedure will work best for your teeth to remove the stains. Your dentist should also explain the treatment options to you.

When considering options, be sure to consider the risks and benefits (i.e., pros and cons) of each procedure. Your ultimate goal is to obtain a treatment option that is appropriate for your teeth’s condition, budget, preferences, health, and lifestyle.

A smile is a valuable asset in our society. A bright smile will always be noticed first, and smiling helps increase our confidence, happiness, and overall health!

There is no need to tolerate discolored or gray teeth when there are so many techniques available to restore them. Start the process today, and happy smiling!

You might also like