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Identifying A Bruised Tooth

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

When imagining a bruised tooth, you might picture it turning the same colors as bruised skin – various rainbow hues before becoming brownish. But though a tooth can take on shades of yellow, green, and other colors for certain oral conditions, a bruised tooth sticks with pink or gray.

So, what does it mean when it's pink? Or when it's gray? And what exactly causes a tooth to bruise? Learn all about bruised teeth, how to treat them, and the possibilities of saving them.

What Causes a Bruised Tooth?

Just like a bodily bruise, trauma or injury typically causes a bruised tooth. The dental trauma could result from biting down on a hard object (like hard candy), grinding your teeth, or sustaining a sports injury or any blow to the mouth.

When tooth trauma occurs:

  1. The soft tissue and ligaments around the tooth absorb the impact.
  2. Then, the capillaries around the tooth burst and travel through the apical foramen – aka the opening at the tip of the root.
  3. That leads to tooth discoloration and pain – like bruised skin. The pain might not be limited to the bruised tooth but affect all teeth, front and back.

What a Bruised Tooth Looks Like and Why

The American Dental Association (ADA) on its mouthhealthy.org site puts it simply: Pink means the tooth could be striving to survive. Gray means your tooth probably didn't make it.

Pink Bruised Tooth: If the tooth is pinkish, it could be in a stage where it's aiding in nerve protection – and it might heal to its former color. However, sometimes the pinkish hue signals internal root resorption, a condition that can lead to tooth loss as your body rejects your tooth.

Gray Bruised Tooth: When the injured tooth turns gray, it typically means the pulp inside it is no longer vital and is at risk for infection or decay. The next step typically is a root canal, followed by capping the tooth with a crown.

No matter the color of a bruised baby tooth, you probably can wait patiently for it to fall out.

Treating a Bruised Tooth

If you experience dental trauma, please get the care you need as soon as possible. Immediately, contact your dental professional for an appointment. Your dental provider will most likely:

  • Take X-rays in case there's damage you can't see.
  • Check for problems, such as abscess, sensitivity, or loose teeth.
  • If necessary, recommend a dental splint or other hardware, an extraction, a root canal, or other oral treatments.

While waiting for the tooth to heal and for your dentist to determine the best treatment solution, take these steps to soothe the ache or prevent future trauma.

  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers. Inflammation from an oral injury can be painful. Medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen is often enough to treat swelling and aches. It's unlikely your dentist will prescribe any stronger painkillers.
  • Ask about a custom nightguard or mouthguard. If you grind your teeth while sleeping, wearing a nightguard will protect your teeth and ligaments from future damage. And wearing a custom mouthguard while playing sports is always a safe bet to prevent injuring your teeth and gums. Both can protect your bruised tooth while it heals.
  • Be patient. Treatment for a bruised tooth might not happen immediately. Take time to heal and follow your dentist's instructions to prepare for the next treatment steps. Also, be aware that tooth trauma healing time can vary.

Seeking your dental professional's help is a good call for diagnosing a traumatic dental injury's severity. This is true when you first experience the injury. And it's crucial If your tooth is painful or discolored, so be aware of the signs of a bruised tooth. Most importantly, let's keep your teeth white and your gums pink!

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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