What does a discolored dog tooth mean for your pet?

A discolored dog tooth can be extremely concerning for pet owners, and for good reason. A discolored tooth can occur for a number of different reasons and should be checked out by a veterinarian trained in dentistry as soon as you notice the discolored tooth. Discolored teeth can be an array of colors—grey, pink, purple, brown, or black. 

Read on to find out more about the types and causes of discolored dog teeth and the impact this health issue could have on your pet.

Discolored Teeth in Dogs

It is estimated that over 90% of discolored dog teeth are dead, which means that discolored teeth of any color are very likely a problem for your pet. When a tooth dies, the soft tissues inside the hollow part of the tooth (root canal) die, begin to break down and start to leak out the end of the root. This sets up inflammation in that area, frequently leading to damage to the bone, the root and possibly infection in that area. These outcomes can all be painful. Since dogs almost never show signs of oral pain, these problems frequently go untreated, making the situation worse. 

When you notice your pet has a discolored tooth, a veterinarian trained in dentistry can determine whether the discoloration of the tooth is within the tooth or on its surface. Surface staining is common, and not usually a sign of a significant health problem. However, if the entire tooth is discolored, it is likely due to an internal cause. Always be sure to take your dog to a veterinary dentist as soon as you notice any discoloration or other signs of dental problems so that the issue may be correctly diagnosed and treated. 

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Discoloration

There are two different types of tooth discoloration. Intrinsic discoloration occurs when there is an internal health issue with the tooth, causing internal discoloration of the entire tooth. Extrinsic discoloration is caused when stains accumulate on the outside of the tooth. 

Yellow and Brown Teeth—Extrinsic Discoloration

Extrinsic discoloration is caused by an outside source. Some things that can cause extrinsic discoloration, which usually presents itself as yellow and brown teeth, include:

  • Calculus (tartar) stains
  • Stains from materials in the food or water
  • Stains from medications
  • Stains from faulty enamel formation
  • Stains from chewing on metal objects
  • Infections or severe stress when the teeth were developing

Pink, Purple, Grey, or Black Teeth—Intrinsic Discoloration

Intrinsic discoloration occurs inside your dog’s tooth. The most common cause of intrinsic staining occurs secondary to trauma of the tooth that causes the pulp tissue to die and blood to seep into the structure of the tooth from the inside. Intrinsic staining  can be caused by problems such as:

  • Trauma or Injury to the tooth, causing pulpitis
  • Fractures that allow infection inside the tooth
  • Excess bilirubin in your dog’s blood
  • Health conditions that result in improper development of dentin or enamel

Different Signs of a Discolored Dog Tooth—Intrinsic or Extrinsic

  • Any type of discoloration on the tooth 
  • A fractured or broken tooth
  • Rough enamel or pitted tooth surface
  • Lines or rings of discoloration around teeth
  • Stained enamel

Treating a Discolored Dog Tooth

Some discolored teeth require no treatment whatsoever. Discolored teeth that are dead or painful are treated with endodontic (root canal)  therapy or extraction. Depending on the severity of the problem and the type of tooth affected, your veterinary dentist will recommend one of these two treatments. 

Endodontic therapy is also known as a root canal therapy. This treatment involves removing the dead pulp within the tooth, cleaning and disinfecting the hollow area inside the tooth, and filling the inside of the tooth with materials that prevent any re-entry of bacteria inside the toothl. Root canal therapy is actually a less traumatic procedure than extraction and allows the tooth to remain in your dog’s mouth. 

Surgical extractions are recommended in cases where a root canal is not an option. Surgical extractions are more invasive than root canal therapy, as the roots of a dog’s teeth go deep into the jaw bone, making surgery a more traumatic choice of treatment for your dog. Unfortunately, sometimes surgery is the only available option.

Veterinary Dentist in Montana

If you are concerned about your dog’s discolored tooth, give us a call today to schedule a visit to Montana Pet Dentistry and Oral Surgery with Dr. Tony Woodward, the only board-certified veterinary dentist in all of Montana—located in Bozeman. We are available Monday through Thursday from 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM.


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