A Darkened Tooth After Root Canal Treatment: Should You Be Worried?
If you've had a root canal to remove a tooth's infected nerve, you'll know that the process is quite smooth. The only painful part is extremely brief, and that's when your jaw is injected with a powerful anesthetic. After the procedure, there can be some lingering sensitivity in the affected tooth and surrounding tissues, but this quickly fades. The troublemaking infected nerve is gone forever. So why is your treated tooth gradually darkening?
Firstly, and most importantly, don't be distressed if a tooth changes color after root canal treatment. The tooth remains healthy, and it doesn't mean that your root canal has failed. Any color change might begin to happen shortly after the procedure or might develop at some point in the future—if it develops at all. It's a side effect that's not unheard of, but it's not common either. However, it's a completely cosmetic issue.
Report the issue to the dentist who performed your root canal. They'll help you to find a solution. This isn't something that can be corrected at home with teeth whitening. The discoloration is intrinsic (originating from inside the tooth) as opposed to extrinsic (external staining). Whitening won't solve anything, and don't forget that the tooth needed a large filling to seal it after your treatment, and this filling wouldn't whiten anyway.
But why might a tooth discolor after root canal treatment? There are a few possible options. A small amount of the tooth's (now-dead) pulp may have remained behind. The infection was eliminated, but the necrotic pulp is staining the tooth from the inside out. When the pulp is removed from its chamber, the hollow is filled with gutta-percha (a type of latex), and for some patients, this becomes visible through their dental enamel. Whatever the reason, your dentist can conceal it for you.
Some teeth are fitted with a dental crown for added protection after a root canal, allowing them to withstand ongoing bite pressure caused by chewing food. This may not have been deemed necessary in your case, and while it's not needed to reinforce the tooth, a porcelain crown will permanently conceal the discoloration. Alternatively, a porcelain veneer can be bonded to the tooth's outward-facing surface, making the tooth look the exact same shade as the rest of your teeth. Dental bonding (applying tooth-colored resin to the tooth's surface) is another option.
A darkened tooth after a root canal is a known side effect but not something that will ever be a problem for most patients. However, if your treated tooth should begin to darken at any point after your treatment, see your dentist, as the discoloration won't go away and must be concealed.
Contact your dentist for more information about root canals.