Why Do Teeth Turn Gray?

When it comes to a tooth, gray is a scary color indicating oral health issues and aging, worn-down teeth. Gray teeth sometimes happen through no fault of their owners.

“For some people, no matter how often they brush and floss, their teeth never turn that pearly white,” Colgate.com’s Jenny Green notes. 

But why do teeth turn gray?

The Tetracyline Effect

For older Americans, the reason is often a result of a now-outdated antibiotic given to them as a child or young adult. 

As Crest.com notes, “Chances are, anyone you’ve met with gray teeth, was most likely born before the 1980s and may have been given a powerful antibiotic called tetracycline at an early age. Tetracycline is an antibacterial medication designed to fight bacterial infections in your body, such as urinary tract infections, acne and other infections, that has been proven to cause tooth discoloration.” 

For young children, the alarming appearance of gray teeth is often early antibiotic exposure, usually mothers’ use of tetracycline antibiotics while pregnant. Prior to the 1980s, tetracycline was often given to pregnant women and children under the age of 8 whose teeth were not fully developed.

The resulting discoloration can be striking. The discoloration can affect the entire tooth, or can form horizontal stain bands – resembling stripes. These stain bands can range from light to very dark. 

Thankfully, researchers discovered the cause of gray teeth. Today, physicians are careful not to prescribe tetracycline to pregnant women and children. 

Preexisting Conditions

Gray teeth can also result from hereditary conditions. Dental professionals can help diagnose the root causes of gray teeth. These hereditary conditions can also lead to tooth discoloration. 

Dentinogenesis Imperfecta: Affecting an estimated one in every 6,000 to 8,000 people, this condition impacts tooth development and causes teeth to become discolored and translucent. Dentinogenesis Imperfecta also weakens teeth, putting them at risk for damage, breakage and loss.

Trauma: Damage to the mouth can leave a lasting impact on teeth. Blows and falls can disturb enamel formation in children with still-developing teeth. This can lead to gray teeth stains. Trauma can also disrupt blood flow to teeth in older children and adults and cause gray stains.

According to the American Dental Association, if a tooth is damaged due to trauma or infection, the pulp and nerves can die and the tooth turns dark, pink, gray or black. 

Metal: Some materials used in the past by dentists to repair teeth such as silver fillings may also lead to graying of teeth over time.

How to Improve Your Gray Teeth

Thankfully, there is are easy way to a brighter, whiter smile for people battling gray teeth. A variety of at-home whitening products are available as well as comprehensive dental work such as crowns and veneers. Consult The Family Dental Center to discuss the best treatment option for you. 

Popular methods to improve gray teeth include:

  1. Brushing with whitening toothpastes
  2. Brushing with natural tooth whiteners, such as baking soda
  3. At-home tooth whitening strip kits
  4. At-home bleaching kit prepared by your dentist, which contains a bleaching solution and fitted mouth guard

But gray teeth must be treated to regain their natural, healthy color. As Heathline notes, “Gray teeth may not go back to their original color unless they’re treated with whitening agents.”

For gray will never be a good or stylish color for healthy teeth. 

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