I admit, I drink a lot of coffee and I’m a regular smoker. I know if I cut back on these habits, my teeth would look nicer. But I have been using these teeth whitening strips and nothing is happening. In fact, since I’ve started using them, the one really dark tooth I have looks worse. Is that even possible? Well, maybe the others are lightening and the really dark one just is more noticeable. So, I started cutting the strips so I can place it only on the really dark tooth. Why isn’t it working on the main tooth I want to focus on?
-Sheila in North Carolina
Thank you for your question. It sounds like you have figured out that most of your teeth are being whitened from the tooth whitening strips. But there is one fairly discolored one that is not lightening. This is actually a concern. It should be responding like the others are, if it is indeed surface staining on the tooth from coffee and smoking. But since it’s not, there may be a problem. For example, if the tooth is gray and isn’t whitening, it may be dead. Did you suffer a trauma that you can recall? Do you have any pain? These would be symptoms of a dead tooth.
It is important to schedule an appointment to get an x-ray on the tooth. If the tooth is not getting blood flow, it may turn into an infection and will require treatment to save the tooth. Don’t put this off because it may end up requiring a root canal. During that procedure, the color of the tooth can be improved.
It sounds like the tooth that isn’t responding to the whitening, may be stained from the inside and not externally. No tooth whitening strips, take-take home trays, or powerful Zoom whitening will help, if it is dead. An experienced cosmetic dentist may be able to explore the option of whitening it from the inside. But if it does need a root canal, you may end up with a porcelain crown anyway, which will improve the appearance of the tooth.
Don’t put off seeking treatment to figure out what is going on with the tooth and why it is not responding to the tooth whitening.