Hi Dr. B,
The strangest thing has happened to my three-year-old Boxer. One of his teeth has changed color. It is the fang on the left side. It suddenly became pink, and then slowly changed to grey. It doesn’t seem to bother him at all. What is going on here?
St. Paul, MN
Your dog suffered trauma to his tooth. And the scenario that you have described is very common, especially in the canine teeth (fangs). It can happen to both dogs and cats.
The type of trauma that causes tooth discoloration is called concussive trauma. In short, it is trauma that injures the inside of the tooth, but does not break the tooth. The most common cause of this is biting down too hard on food or a toy.
Concussive trauma causes injury to an area of the tooth (known as the pulp) that contains blood and nerves. This causes bleeding inside the tooth, which turns it pink. Over time, the color changes to grey as the blood breaks down and is no longer fresh. It can be quite unsightly.
Unfortunately, it can also be painful, and it can lead to problems down the road. The most recent statistics I have seen state that 92% of animals with discolored teeth will have chronic problems with their pulp. Over time, these can lead to severe problems such as abscesses (infections), inflammation, and sometimes even bone infections.
Any dog or cat with a discolored tooth should be evaluated by a vet, preferably one with the ability to take dental X-rays. In some cases, the tooth is monitored with regular X-rays. For teeth with severe or chronic pulp problems, extraction (removal) or root canal may be needed.
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