Discolored Teeth (Pulpits)

It is very common to see teeth that are discolored. The most common cause for tooth discoloration is trauma. When the pet chews hard on an object or from blunt trauma to the mouth, the pulp of the tooth bleeds and stains the dentin pink initially. Over time, the tooth will become purple or grey. Other causes can be from chronic wear (abrasion), infection or inflammation, developmental and metabolic disease.

A study reported in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry by Dr. Fraser Hale (JVD, Vol18:1, March 2001 and the Veterinary Dental Forum in October 2001) showed that 94% of discolored teeth suffer from partial or total pulp necrosis (infected) and only 58% of those show radiographic signs of necrosis. The study concluded that discolored teeth need to be either extracted or treated with root canal therapy.

A vast majority of discolored teeth are non-vital (dead), eventually leading to infection. Treatment of non-vital teeth is always necessary as the necrotic pulp becomes a source of local (periapical periodontitis or osteomyelitis) or systemic infection (heart, liver, kidneys). In addition, these teeth are painful. Waiting and watching is not in your pet’s best interest and will only get worse.

Treatment of discolored teeth is always centered around the non-vital pulp, which is the source of infection/inflammation and pain. This is done by either extraction of the tooth or root canal therapy, which preserves the tooth. All discolored teeth should be evaluated by a veterinary dental specialist as soon as it is noted. If you suspect that your cat or dog has a discolored tooth, please schedule an appointment.