Some people have teeth that are naturally gray. Others may notice that their teeth are turning gray. This can happen at any age, for a variety of reasons.

All of your teeth may seem to gray gradually over time. However, in some instances, only one tooth will turn gray.

In this article, we’ll go over the causes of graying teeth as well as potential solutions.

Possible causes for gray teeth include:

  • Tetracycline. This antibiotic can cause teeth to turn gray in children whose teeth aren’t fully developed. This is most likely to occur in children under age 8. You may also get gray teeth from tetracycline if your mother took it during pregnancy.
  • Dental restorations. The materials used to fill cavities or restore teeth can sometimes cause tooth discolorations to occur. These include metal crowns and silver fillings.
  • Root canal medications. Ledermix is a paste used during the root canal process. The active ingredients are demeclocycline hydrochloride and triamcinolone acetonide. These ingredients can cause teeth to turn grayish-brown. Another root canal medication, Ultracal XS, has this same effect, but to a lesser degree. Ultracal XS contains calcium hydroxide.
  • Tooth trauma. Anything that cuts off blood flow to the tooth can result in the tooth dying and going gray. The tooth may also develop gray stains from trauma. Trauma to the tooth may not result in a change in color for months or even years. For this reason, people don’t always realize what caused their tooth to go gray.
  • Tooth decay. Decay can also cut off a tooth’s blood flow, making it die and go gray.
  • Dentinogenesis imperfecta. This rare, hereditary disorder of tooth development can make baby and permanent teeth appear blue-gray. It also weakens teeth, making them prone to breakage.
  • Aging. Your teeth may change color and look grayish-blue, simply as a result of aging.

Your dentist will assess your teeth to determine a cause for gray color. You’ll have an examination of your teeth and gums, as well as x-rays. In some instances, your dentist may also do a pulp test, to look for signs of pulp necrosis, or death of the tooth’s pulp.

It’s very important to see a dentist for gray teeth, since a change in tooth color may be a signal that your tooth is dying.

A dying tooth may contain bacteria which can spread, putting other teeth at risk. Root canal is the usual treatment for a dead tooth.

When to see your dentist

See your dentist for graying teeth if:

  • one or more teeth change color or appear stained
  • you have pain or sensitivity in one or more teeth
  • your gums feel swollen, tender, or bleed

Whitening treatments work best on yellow rather than gray teeth. However, you may still get good results from whitening treatments. Your results will largely depend on how dark your teeth are, and what caused them to become gray.

If your teeth were stained by tetracycline use, whitening treatments may not give you an even result across all teeth.

Talk to your dentist about effective treatments for you. Things to try may include:

  • brushing with whitening toothpastes
  • brushing with natural tooth whiteners, such as baking soda
  • at-home tooth whitening strip kits
  • at-home bleaching kit prepared by your dentist, which contain a bleaching solution and fitted mouthguard
  • in-office professional teeth whitening, which typically uses greater amounts of the active ingredients used in at-home kits or strips and may include laser light treatments
  • dental veneers, which are semi-permanent, custom-made porcelain or composite resin thin covers which fit onto the front of teeth

Gray teeth may not go back to their original color unless they’re treated with whitening agents.

If you don’t get the results you want from at-home treatment, your dentist may recommend in-office bleaching or veneers.

Teeth that turn gray should be examined by a dentist. Your dentist can determine if a tooth is dead or dying and will let you know the best treatment for it.

Gray teeth which aren’t dying can often be brightened or whitened with at-home or dental treatments. Your results will be determined by how dark your teeth are and the cause of the discoloration.