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Dental Health and Food: Learning to Eat Better

My intense love for candy, cakes, and everything in between started as a child. I simply couldn't go one day without something sweet to eat. But my love for all things sweet took a toll on my teeth. My dentist diagnosed me with seven cavities, each one a different size and depth. After sitting through four long dental appointments, I decided to make a change. I now monitor my diet and only eat things that benefit my oral health. I'm here to help you take better care of your teeth. My blog offers tips on how to improve your diet, maintain good oral hygiene, and many other topics. Hopefully, you can learn to overcome your bad habits just as I did. Good luck with your future dental health.


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Dental Health and Food: Learning to Eat Better

How A Root Canal Treatment Can Discolor Your Tooth

by Eric Bailey

If you damage the pulp inside one of your teeth, a bacterial infection is likely to develop. To remove the infected tissue, a dentist will normally have to carry out a root canal treatment. While these treatments can effectively deal with infections, some patients experience side effects, including tooth discoloration. If a root canal treatment has caused discoloration in one of your teeth, find out what may have caused the problem.

Diseased material remains in the tooth canal

A root canal treatment relies on a series of repetitive movements with special endodontic instruments that a dentist uses to clean out the root canal inside your tooth. Some teeth have one canal, while other teeth have several of these cavities, but patients also sometimes have tiny lateral extensions of the pulp chamber that are almost impossible to see.

In these cases, diseased material can get into these extended pulp chambers. Once the dentist seals the cavity with a filling, the trapped material has nowhere to go. Over time, this unwanted debris might start to discolor the surrounding tooth. A similar problem occurs when the diseased material gets into the pulp horn, at the tip of the canal cavity.

Canal filling materials discolor the tooth

Once your dentist removes all the diseased material from your root canal, it's very important that he or she seals the remaining cavity, or a secondary infection will probably develop. To do this, your dentist will commonly use a filling material called gutta-percha.

Gutta-percha is a special substance that dentists have used since 1867. Gutta-percha combines natural rubber with zinc oxide and other materials to form a strong, inert filling. Once the dentist seals off the gutta-percha, bacteria can no longer get into the root canal.

Some patients experience tooth discoloration from the gutta-percha. A study in 2001 found that, over a 12-month period, the material caused slight to moderate discoloration in test samples of teeth.

Damage from medications

As well as removing all the diseased material from your root canal, your dentist will sometimes add special medications to the cavity. Once he or she seals these medications in the tooth, the risk of a subsequent infection decreases, but some people also experience discoloration.

Dentists sometimes use phenolic compounds and eugenol during a root canal treatment. These medications can stain the dentine in your tooth. Dentists also use polyantibiotic pastes to help prevent infection. These medications can cause the root dentine to darken in color.

Discoloration from amalgam fillings

Dentists can use several methods to seal a root canal once they have removed all the diseased material. In some cases, you may need a crown, but your dentist will sometimes just recommend a simple filling. Dentists can use different types of filling, but amalgam fillings are still relatively common.

Dentists have used amalgam fillings for more than a century. Amalgam is a blend of metals, which normally include silver, tin and copper. The metallic finish of an amalgam filling is relatively distinctive, so many people are now opting for a white filling instead.

That aside, amalgam fillings can discolor teeth. If your dentist opts to fill your root canal with an amalgam filling, the rest of the tooth can sometimes turn darker in color. Even if a root canal treatment causes tooth discoloration, dental patients don't need to put up with the results. For example, internal bleaching can deal with many of these problems.

A root canal treatment is often a vital way to combat an infection, but, as a result of this work, your tooth may lose its natural color. Talk to your cosmetic dentist, like Milan Simanek, D.D.S. & Associates, on about the options available to you.