I had root canal treatments on my 3 front teeth when I was 14. Since then the dead teeth have started to discolor. I asked my dentist what I can do to get these teeth whiter and he told me my only option was to have crowns put on them which I did.
Since then, I have looked online and saw that I could have just had those teeth internally bleached instead of crowned to get them whiter. They have never given me any trouble or pain in the past. Is it standard procedure for a dentist to not offer internal or zoom bleaching as an option to whiten those teeth instead of the expensive crowns? I would have just had that done if it had been an option!
—Amber from Oregon
Yes, internal bleaching could have been done. Would it have looked good? Probably not. You didn’t say how old you are, but if you had these root canal treatments when you were fourteen, and you are now at least in your mid-twenties, the stain could have been pretty ingrained, and internal bleaching would probably not have been good enough. You would have gotten the teeth lighter, but I doubt you would have been happy with how they looked. They would not have matched your other teeth.
So is it a standard procedure for the dentist to not offer the internal bleaching as an option? I would say yes, very few dentists would have mentioned that, for a couple of reasons. First, internal bleaching is tricky to do and requires multiple visits to the office. Second, the results are unpredictable. You lighten the teeth in question but you can’t control the final color, so you can’t get those teeth to match the others.
My preferred way of handling a front tooth that needs a root canal treatment but is otherwise intact involves a couple of steps.
First, after the root canal is completed, I thoroughly clean the inside of the tooth from any of the root canal filling materials. A lot of dentists don’t realize that this is the source of the worst stains. If that gutta percha and root canal sealer cement are not present in the crown of the tooth, the color will be stable for several years.
Then I put a white fiberglass post inside the tooth to strengthen it. These front teeth with root canals are vulnerable to lateral stresses and a fiberglass post helps keep it strong.
Then, years later, if the tooth starts to discolor, I would do a porcelain veneer to correct the color. That is much less aggressive than a crown and helps preserve the strength of the tooth.
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