August 6, 2010

Discolored Teeth

Discolored teeth can occur from a number of causes including developmental problems, use of certain drugs, trauma, infection, or excessive wear of the teeth. Most discolored teeth are dead and require treatment. Any discolored tooth has the potential to be uncomfortable, and should be examined and radiographed by a veterinarian well-versed in dental pathology.

Typical example of a dead tooth in a dog.

Upper canine tooth is dead and discolored compared to lower canine tooth.

Dental radiograph showing the size of the root canal. The entire space between the arrows is hollow and filled with decaying tissue.

To save this large tooth, it was treated with root canal therapy. The large amount of decaying tissue was removed and the root canal was filled with the white filling material seen on this X-ray.

Final picture after root canal therapy, showing the final restoration (arrow).

Most discolored teeth have died as a result of trauma to the tooth. As a traumatized tooth dies, the tubules of the inner tooth soak up blood that stains the inside of the tooth, resulting in discoloration that gradually changes from pink to purple and eventually to a brownish/gray color. Studies have shown that an overwhelming percentage of discolored teeth are dead. Failure to treat these teeth results in discomfort to the patient, damage to the root, and damage to the bone around the end of the root. If untreated, it takes years for the diseased tooth to fall out on its own.

Repair of a discolored area of missing enamel. This area of discoloration was limited to the superficial layers of the tooth, and the tooth was still alive. Dental radiographs are required to see if the tooth is treatable or not.

Large area of defective enamel on the side of this major chewing tooth. Dental X-rays showed that this tooth was still alive.

The tooth has been restored to full strength and function with composite restorative materials.

Another type of discolored teeth results from developmental problems with the enamel of the teeth, resulting in soft, thin, brownish enamel. These teeth are sensitive and susceptible to infection. Treatment options include bonded sealants and/or restorative treatment.

Widespread deformed enamel of the teeth in a young dog.

A young dog with Enamel Hypocalcification, showing areas of soft, discolored enamel and exposed dentin on all of the teeth.

After treatment involving removal of areas of soft discolored enamel, smoothing the effected areas, and application of bonded resin sealants. Although not as strong as a true filling, this will make the patient more comfortable, help prevent infection inside the teeth, and facilitate home care in this patient. Another treatment option for these patients is to restore all of the defects with composite restorative material, as in the case pictured above.