Great white shark close up smiling and swimming

Hunting for shark teeth is a popular weekend activity around Wilmington, NC. There are many places around here that draw people looking for shark teeth. If you’ve ever gone out with your kids to find shark teeth, they’ve probably asked you why shark teeth are black and not white like they are in the shark’s mouth.

And if you have discolored teeth, you might be wondering whether your teeth are also discolored for the same reasons. It’s usually a very different process that changes the color of your teeth, but there may be some overlap.

Why Shark Teeth Turn Black

Most of the time, shark teeth that you find on the beach are black because they’re fossilized. In the process of fossilization, the minerals that are naturally in shark teeth are replaced by other minerals that were in the rock or soil where the tooth was buried. Because the minerals in the soil can vary from place to place, this also means that the color of the shark’s teeth you find can be different, depending on the soil. Most of the time, they’re black, but they can be brown, red, grey, or even green.

There are many reasons why most of the teeth you’ll find are fossilized. First, it’s just easier to see dark-colored teeth against the light color of the sand. Because they stand out, they’re easier to find than whatever white-colored teeth may also be on the beach.

But there are also just more fossilized teeth on the beach than fresh teeth. When shark lose their teeth in the ocean, these teeth can immediately start being broken down by the water, bacteria, and other things that might attack the minerals. This makes it rare for fresh shark teeth to make it to the beach.

Once shark teeth are fossilized, they’re more resistant to these kinds of forces, so they are less likely to break down. They can remain on the beach longer for people to find them.

Although it’s rare for shark teeth to turn into fossils, sharks have been around for eons, so over time many, many teeth have become fossilized.

Why Your Teeth Turn Black

So, are your teeth turning black because they’re becoming fossilized? Not exactly.

Your teeth can become discolored because the enamel is breaking down. This is usually related to decay–it’s why cavities turn black, although in their early stages they can actually look like especially white spots.

Your teeth might also turn black because they’re infected. When bacteria attack the pulp in the tooth and take over the space inside the tooth, the tooth can become dark in color. This can be corrected with root canal therapy, which makes your tooth healthier and restores its beauty, too.

But most of the time, your teeth are becoming discolored for a much more common reason: stains. Tooth stains don’t change the composition of your tooth the way fossilization does, but they can penetrate the enamel. Tooth stains get inside the enamel, so you can’t brush them away without wearing away the enamel.

But teeth whitening is a safe way to break down and remove stains without damaging the tooth enamel. Your teeth can look whiter and be healthy.

The closest thing to fossilization that discolors your teeth might be what is called “swimmer’s calculus,” when swimming pool water reacts with your saliva to create brown mineral deposits on your teeth. These can be removed during your normal checkup and cleaning.

Are You Looking for Whiter Teeth in Wilmington?

If you’re unhappy with the discoloration of your teeth in Wilmington, NC, we can help. Please call 910-392-6060 today for an appointment with cosmetic dentist Dr. Michael Kuzma at Kuzma Advanced Dentistry today.