Whitening Strips Not Working on My Gray Tooth

I have a gray tooth. I’ve been using teeth whitening strips on it, but it’s not working, even sleeping with the strips. It looks like my other teeth are whitening, but not the gray one. Do I need to get professional whitening done to deal with this gray tooth?

Andrew D. – Florida


If you’ve got a gray tooth, it’s likely dying. You may have had a traumatic injury to the tooth. It’s not going to whiten, even with professional teeth whitening. What you’re seeing is the bruising inside the tooth, not staining.

What your tooth needs is a root canal and a crown. The crown can be made to match the rest of your teeth, no matter what their color. So, if you’re happy with the color of the rest of your teeth, you can just have the crown made to match them.

If you’re not happy with the color of your teeth, you can have your dentist whiten them and then have the crown matched to the new color.

Whatever you decide, I wouldn’t wear your whitestrips overnight, unless they’re a brand designed for that. You’re going to end up with gum irritation. Most whitestrips have a time limit of 30 minutes.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Jerome Cha.

Best Dentist for Bulimia Patients

I’m trying to find the best dentist for my situation. I have bulimia, though I’m in recovery and have it under control. I’m slowly starting to rebuild my life and am learning to love and accept the person in the mirror, but it’s twice as hard now because I have to come to terms with the damage that I’ve caused my body. I used to binge and purge a lot, and so most of my teeth have damage on some level. I want to focus on health first, but I’d also like to feel good about my smile. Part of me thinks it’s a bad idea to go to an office that strictly does cosmetic dentistry. I don’t feel like I’m ready for that kind of pressure. At the same time, I also think that would be the best dentist for me, so I can be sure all of my needs are addressed. Is there a certain type of office that specializes in reconstructing smiles after bullimia, so I can be comfortable and not feel like I have to explain everything?

Thank you,


Dear Erika,

I’m really proud of your progress. That’s fantastic. I know it’s likely been a hard road.

You won’t need to feel uncomfortable going to a cosmetic dentist. We have repaired damage from bulimia in our office, and I would wager that almost every other accredited cosmetic dentist has seen bulimia cases.

These are the best dentists for these situations. They are most likely to be sensitive to your situation, to understand your need for confidentiality and compassion, and to give you the beautiful smile you deserve and so badly want at this point in your life.

There is a different mindset with dentists like Dr. Cha who are passionate about appearance-related dentistry. Dental schools tend to inculcate an authoritarian approach to treatment–the dentist knows best. So we often see patients who have had smile makeovers by general family dentists where the makeover looks truly mediocre but the dentist told the patient that it was great and basically had the attitude that, “I am the professional–I know best.”

Expert cosmetic dentists are different. That minority of dentists who develop a passion for appearance-related dentistry develop that passion because they tend to be more sensitive to the patient’s perspective. For example, when they do a smile makeover, they will do a try-in and insist that the patient love the new smile before permanently bonding it on. If the patient has any hesitancy about how it looks, they will address all those concerns, even sending it back to the laboratory technician if necessary, until the patient is excited about how it looks. The average general dentist, confronted with patient reluctance, will just bond it on and tell the patient it looks great and it will only take time for the patient to get used to it.

My suggestion would be to find an accredited cosmetic dentist near you. If it requires some travel, I think it would be worth it. If you can’t find an accredited cosmetic dentist close enough, then look for someone who displays a smile gallery on their website with photographs that show detail, that clearly claim that this is the work of the dentist, and that look beautiful. Then ask to see before-and-after photographs when you visit the office. Most excellent cosmetic dentists will let you make a preliminary complimentary visit to the office before committing to a paid examination, so you may want to do that also to make sure you are comfortable with the dentist and staff.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Jerome Cha.