Can you whiten your crowns? Crowns can resist stains the way your natural teeth cannot. But that does not mean they cannot look gray, yellow, or even lifeless one day.
Before we answer if you can whiten your crowns, we have to answer the following few related questions:
- How old are your crowns?
- Do you practice good oral hygiene?
- Do your eating and drinking habits encourage tooth discoloration?
- Has the discoloration happened suddenly?
1. How old are your crowns?
Newer porcelain crowns have better composition than their older counterparts. Their color remains stable for a long time. In contrast, older crowns may lose their glaze with time.
This can happen for three main reasons:
Repeated mechanical force on the crown
For example, extremely hard-brushing for a long period.
The quality of the bristles on your toothbrush may also be a factor.
If you rub off the crown’s surface, the crown will lose its glaze and ultimately succumb to staining.
Unmanaged chemical reaction
If you consume soda beverages excessively or even have too much lemon juice on your crowns daily, the crowns may lose their glaze.
Damage to the pigments of the porcelain
Your dentist will give your crowns a specific shade of whiteness to make them blend with your natural teeth.
However, creating any shade of whiteness involves pigmentation. The pigments can break down over time, making your crowns look slightly discolored.
2. Do you practice good oral hygiene?
You may damage your teeth if you do not maintain good oral hygiene. Good oral hygiene includes the following:
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day following proper brushing techniques.
- Visiting your dentist twice a year.
- Flossing your teeth at least once a day.
- Eating a balanced diet so your teeth can get all the necessary minerals.
- Brushing with fluoride toothpaste to keep your teeth strong and to prevent cavities.
Your crown sits on a tooth. If you do not maintain good oral hygiene, that tooth may be attacked by dangerous bacteria, thus becoming discolored. That, in turn, will make your crown look discolored.
Your crown may even come off if the adhesive that keeps the crown firm on your tooth gets damaged.
You could say this is more related to your teeth than your crowns. However, the results remain the same.
3. Do your eating and drinking habits encourage tooth discoloration?
- The adhesive that connects the crowns to your teeth is not as strong as the crowns. Chewing sticky food constantly with your crowns will harm the adhesive. Eating sticky food may end up dislodging your crowns.
- Sugary foods attract bacteria, and bacteria create a film of acid on your teeth. This acid causes cavities and can significantly harm the crown’s adhesive.
- The same can be said about eating highly acidic food like lemons and tomatoes. They are not friendly to your crown’s adhesive and the teeth beneath the crowns.
- Drinking coffee, tea, or any other pigmented food or drink for an extended period may discolor the adhesive, thus giving your crowns a darkened appearance.
Understanding how the health of your crowns and natural teeth are connected can help erase a lot of mental pressure.
4. Has the discoloration happened suddenly?
If your crowns suddenly appear discolored, one of the following has happened.
- Your crown is sitting on a dead tooth. Teeth can die. The condition is called dental necrosis or pulp necrosis. This means your teeth no longer receive oxygen and nutrients from the pulp. As a result, your crowns may appear yellow, gray, or brown.
- The tooth in question is not dead yet but has received trauma. We can look at several scenarios in this regard. For example, the adhesive is damaged. The soft tissues inside the tooth are affected. Bacteria have entered the pulp through cavities and infected it.
In both cases, your crowns may look darker than before.
You have only two solutions available at such a point.
- Extract the dead tooth and replace it with an implant.
- Treat the tooth with a root canal procedure if it is not dead.
A third case can be that you have recently whitened your teeth and whitened them more than the shade of your crowns. Because of that, the crowns look discolored or not white enough compared to the new shade of your natural teeth.
6 reasons your crowns look discolored
Now that we have gone through the questions in detail let us summarize what we see when our crowns have different colors.
- Pigments of the crowns have broken down, giving them a different shade of whiteness.
- Crowns are sitting on dead teeth.
- Pulpal infections have happened to the teeth that hold the crowns.
- The crowns’ adhesive is damaged or discolored.
- An excessive mechanical or chemical force has eroded the surface of the crowns to some degree.
- Your teeth have received a more improved shade of whiteness than the shade that the crowns were initially given.
More reasons your crowns look discolored
Supposing everything is excellent with your oral hygiene and eating habits, and your teeth did not receive any trauma, can your crowns still look discolored?
They can – in the following situations:
1. Acidulated phosphate fluoride
Your dentist has used acidulated phosphate fluoride gels on your crowns during your recent whitening treatment.
According to Anthony Blinkhorn and Kareen Mekertichian, authors of Handbook of Pediatric Dentistry (Fourth Edition, 2013), acidulated phosphate fluoride gel consists of sodium fluoride, hydrofluoric acid, and orthophosphoric acid.
You can have the same gel with a different intensity which contains sodium fluoride, phosphoric acid, and sodium phosphate monobasic.
These gels are approved only for professional use in an in-office environment. They are not recommended for home use.
This highly concentrated gel can chemically alter the glaze of your crowns.
2. Ultrasonic instrumentation
According to an article published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene, ultrasonic scaling can cause damage to your tooth enamel and composite resin restorations.
If you have undergone dental scaling treatment recently, it may not be entirely groundless to think that ultrasonic scaling impacted your crowns.
Ultrasonic tooth cleaners work through vibrations to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth.
3. Power cleaning device
Your dental hygienist may have used a heavy-duty power cleaning tool to blast baking soda and water onto your crowns. Such tools are used to remove strong tartar, which cannot be removed otherwise.
Hygienists should not use such tools on your crowns but only on your natural teeth. However, a mistake could happen, leading to removing a layer of your glazing porcelain crown.
4. Low-quality crowns
Can the quality of the crowns be compromised even before they were bonded to your teeth?
Of course. Based on the manufacturer of the crowns, and sometimes where the crowns were manufactured, crowns can be of different quality.
You can have a low-quality crown and crowns whose quality may have been compromised during the treatment process because your dentist was not experienced or trained enough.
Your crowns may last long but not necessarily in their original shade of color in such a situation. Lack of dental hygiene may complicate the situation further.
Even more reasons your crowns look discolored
Tetracyclines are an antibiotic administered to treat various types of infections.
According to an article published in the International Journal of Dermatology, Minocycline hydrochloride can darken the crown of your permanent teeth.
Minocycline hydrochloride is a derivative of Tetracycline.
Tetracycline opens up a new possibility of tooth discoloration. Your teeth may not be dead. They may not have pulpal infections. They may be discolored because you were administered Minocycline hydrochloride.
Can You Whiten Crowns?
You cannot whiten dental crowns. If discolored, they have to be replaced with new ones. Teeth whitening gels and methods work only on natural teeth. They have no proven effect on dental crowns.
There are scientific ways to whiten the porcelain ceramic that porcelain crowns are made of, but the thing is, such a process cannot be done inside your mouth.
You may have heard of laser whitening. Laser teeth whitening can improve a tooth’s color by several shades. It is an increasingly popular whitening method that can remove the toughest stains from your teeth.
Still, the truth remains laser whitening is only for whitening your teeth. It is not effective on your crowns.
Consult your dentist to examine your crowns and teeth to see why the crowns look discolored. Then whiten your teeth before replacing the old crown with the new one.
Which is first: root canal or teeth whitening?
If your dentist understands that you have an infection in the pulp of a specific tooth whose crown looks discolored, you may have to go for the root canal treatment immediately. And your crown will follow.
Although we recommend whitening your teeth before having a crown, the sequence of treatments is not applicable in such a situation.
You should do a root canal as soon as your dentist recommends it. But if you plan to get the whitening treatment, it would be ideal for advising your dentist to make your crown a few shades whiter than the color of your natural teeth.
Your whitening hygienist will then be able to whiten your teeth to match the shade of your crowns.
Can you whiten your crowns? The answer is no.
Most of the time, your crowns may look discolored simply because of discoloration in the teeth that hold them.
However, in some cases, the quality of the crowns and if they have experienced trauma may also lead to discoloration.
You should consult your dentist if you find your crowns looking discolored. Practice good oral hygiene to avoid teeth discoloration and infection.
- Science Direct. Fluoride and dental health.
- Anthony Blinkhorn and Kareen Mekertichian. Handbook of Pediatric Dentistry (Fourth Edition), 2013.
- International Journal of Dental Hygiene. ‘Effects of ultrasonic instrumentation on enamel surfaces with various defects,’ by S-Y Kim, M-K Kang, S-M Kang, H-E Kim. 2018 May; 16(2): 219-224.
- International Journal of Dermatology. ‘Tetracycline and other tetracycline-derivative staining of the teeth and oral cavity.’ Volume 43, Issue 10, October 2004, pages 709-715.