woman smiling after treatment for a green tooth

What Causes Green Tooth And Other Tooth Discoloration?

Tooth discoloration like a green tooth can occur under many circumstances. Most often these stains are considered extrinsic, meaning they only affect the enamel and appear after the tooth develops. Causes of extrinsic discoloration include food and beverage consumption, tobacco use and tooth wear. In addition, not having an adequate oral hygiene routine may make the enamel more susceptible to staining. An intrinsic stain occurs when the internal part of the tooth, called the dentin, becomes discolored, most commonly during tooth development.

If you notice your tooth change color, see your dentist to determine the possible causes and treatment options.

Types of Teeth Stains

Some types of discoloration are embedded in the tooth. This intrinsic staining cannot be removed by a professional cleaning or with routine oral hygiene. These stains can result from antibiotics like tetracycline or liquid amoxicillin, trauma, fluorosis or an infection. If a single tooth appears dark, it may be a dead tooth.

Teeth with intrinsic staining typically appear grayish. The antibiotic tetracycline is widely known to stain teeth during development. Fluorosis occurs from ingesting large doses of fluoride during tooth development, resulting in white spots or lines on the permanent teeth. Teeth that have been dislodged may look grayish or dark, since trauma can lead to an infection in the pulp or nerve cavity of the tooth.

Green Tooth

A less common type of intrinsic staining can make the teeth appear greenish. Babies who have jaundice, a condition caused by high levels of the yellow pigment bilirubin in the blood, may develop green pigmentation on their baby teeth. According to The Nemours Foundation, jaundice commonly affects premature infants and the condition typically clears up within two weeks. The elevated bilirubin levels will eventually dissipate in the soft tissues and mucous membranes due to the body's fast turnover of cells. However, since teeth are mineralized, they may absorb the bilirubin during tooth development. According to a study published in Current Pediatric Research, green pigmentation of the teeth due to neonatal jaundice is rare, with fewer than 50 reported cases.

Dental crowns could be placed to cover the discolored tooth. However, treatment of the baby teeth for cosmetic purposes is usually not recommended since the teeth will be replaced by permanent teeth.

Consult your dentist if you're concerned about tooth discoloration like a green tooth. Knowing the source of your tooth stain is the first step to finding a lasting solution.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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