If a child bumps his or her primary baby tooth, it may turn dark. Usually this happens two to three weeks after an accident. It’s usually a gray or purple like colour. Whether it turns dark or not doesn’t always depend on the severity of the injury. However, that if the tooth is displaced or knocked very loose at the time of the injury, there seems to be a greater chance of it turning dark. If it doesn’t turn dark after a month, it likely won’t have any further problems. Sometimes it can turn a pink colour which can be another thing called internal resorption where the tooth resorbs from the inside out.

Will the tooth ever lighten back up?

It can lighten back. In fact most do, but it takes a while. There is just not a good blood supply there. In addition, there may have been such displacement of the tooth that the blood supply is damaged. Those teeth may not recover or lighten at all. Having said all that, most dark baby teeth do lighten back. If it is a permanent tooth, then it’s a whole other ball game. A traumatized permanent tooth that turns dark usually means the tooth is dead and will need a root canal to save it.

How long will it take?

Baby teeth seem to take several months to lighten, usually around six months or so. It is kind of like a bruise inside the tooth. Unlike a bruise on the skin where there is a good blood supply, the tooth takes a longer amount of time to recover. Sometimes it will lighten to a slight opaque look, which is barely noticeable. This is due to the canal inside the tooth closing up. It’s like a scar inside the tooth. If this happens then the tooth looks pretty good and is not likely to have any further problems.

Sometimes the tooth never lightens. It stays dark. What can I do? 

If the tooth has turned dark and there are no other signs of infection or injury, just continue to observe it. There often is no need for treatment. We will take an x-ray if possible to check for problems. In a few cases the tooth can abscess due to the death of the pulp inside the tooth. The body can’t get in there to heal. So it is important to watch for that. If the tooth is dark and you just don’t like looking at it, then we can do a filling on the front or a white crown if indicated.

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