What is the Cause of a Dark Splotch on a Tooth Crown?

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Brushing regularly can prevent dark splotches on a tooth crown.
Brushing regularly can prevent dark splotches on a tooth crown. (Image: toothbrush image by Igors Leonovs from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

For a person to maintain her dental health, it is important she visually examines her teeth regularly. Not all dental health problems begin with a toothache. Many begin with visible symptoms, such as a dark splotch on a tooth crown.

Tooth Crown

The crown of a tooth is the visible portion of the tooth above the gum line. The crown is covered with a layer of enamel. Enamel is hard and allows the teeth to tear and chew food. The enamel of a tooth is usually a uniform white color. Over time, staining agents can lead to color changes in tooth crown, including yellowing.

Dark Splotches

Dark splotches can appear anywhere on a tooth crown, including near the gum line or higher, on the side of the tooth. In molars, it is not uncommon to see dark splotches in and around the crevices on the tops of the teeth. These can range from pale brown to dark brown to black.

Causes

A dark splotch on a tooth crown can be caused by mineralized plaque deposits, also known as tartar. These deposits can be small, or they can be large enough to cover the entire side of a tooth. Cavities in teeth are destructive lesions that often begin as very small, dark spots that grow over time. In children, a newly emerged tooth might have part of the enamel cuticle on it. This cuticle, which surrounded the tooth while it was still inside the child's gum, looks like a dark splotch on the tooth.

Treatment

Treatment of a dark splotch on a crown depends on the cause. Tartar can be cleaned away by a dentist. For a cavity, the lesion and damaged tissue can be removed by a dentist and the void left behind can be filled with porcelain, composite resin or a metal alloy such as silver or gold. In severe cases, a root canal or a dental crown might be needed. The enamel cuticle is easily removed by brushing a newly emerged tooth.

Considerations

Because dark splotches on a crown can signal damage to the tooth, dentists prefer to prevent them rather than treat them. Brushing and flossing regularly can prevent plaque buildup that leads to tartar. It can also stop cavities from forming in the first place. Regular professional examinations can help catch dark splotches while they are small and prevent them from becoming serious health issues.

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References

  • "Oral Development and Histology"; James K. Avery, Pauline F. Steele, Nancy Avery; 2002
  • "Teeth"; Simon Hillson; 2005
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