Fig.1 Fig.2
Fig.3 Fig.4

Dental Education Lecture: Discoloration after Root Canal?

It is common to see that our teeth gradually discolor (change color), several years after root canal (#3 in Fig.1 and #2 in Fig.2).  So we usually blame root canal for discoloration.  Is this true?

Our tooth may change color before root canal is done (#3 in Fig.3) .  The discolored tooth has root tip abscess (arrowhead in Fig.3).   We need root canal because the nerve inside the tooth is dying or dead. It appears that dying or dead nerve causes tooth discoloration.

One of the teeth in Fig.4 has had root canal for about seven years.  There is no discoloration.  Root canal was finished early, when the nerve was dying.  It seems that early root canal is essential in preventing tooth discoloration.

Root canal is a complicated procedure.  The doctor needs to pay attention to a lot of details to get good results.  If root canal is not properly executed, tooth discoloration will get worse over years (Fig.1 and 2) with persistence of root tip abscess (arrowhead in Fig.2).  Once a tooth becomes discolored, it is extremely difficult to fix it (Fig.1, Fig.2, Fig.3).  Therefore, prevention is vey important. In brief, root canal should be done early and properly in order to prevent tooth discoloration. Are you interested in knowing which of the four teeth (#1 to #4) has had root canal for a long time without discoloration in Fig.4?

Xin Wei, DDS, PhD, MS 1st edition 12/01/2010, last revision 12/02/2010