Dead Tooth: Signs, Causes and Treatment

You may think that your teeth are not alive, but healthy teeth are alive like any other part of your body. When nerves stop providing blood to a tooth due to dental trauma or infection, it is called a dead or non-vital tooth. In this article, by trace wellness, we will show you in a clear and precise way the most common symptoms, the causes, and treatment of a dead or non-vital tooth.

What is a dead tooth?

A tooth has three levels: enamel, dentin, and pulp.

Enamel: The visible and outer layer of the tooth is the white enamel that we see when we look at a tooth.

Dentin: The bottom or second layer of the tooth, directly beneath the surface enamel is called dentin and acts as a barrier.

Pulp: The third and innermost layer is pulp. It contains blood vessels and the nerve.

When the nerves in the pulp of the tooth, which is the inner layer, are damaged, such as from injury or caries, they can stop supplying blood to the tooth. In this case, the tooth will start dying due to a lack of badly needed nutrients and oxygen. It is considered a dead tooth. It is also known as a non-vital tooth or necrotic tooth.

When this happens, the tooth can fall off on its own, but it is not wise to wait for this to happen since the diseased tooth could infect the jaw or other dental elements.

Signs of a dead tooth

It is not always easy to identify a dead tooth by merely looking at it.
However, these symptoms of a dead tooth can help with self-diagnosis.

Tooth discoloration

Healthy teeth color depends on your diet and oral hygiene. But mostly healthy teeth are a shade of white. Discoloration of a tooth is one of the first signs of a dying tooth for many people. The discoloration of the tooth is an obvious and visible sign that the red blood cells are dying due to a lack of much-needed nutrition and oxygen in the pulp.

If you have a tooth that has discolored because it is dying, it will be a different color from the rest of your teeth. The discoloration will increase over time; a dying tooth may look yellow, light brown, gray, or even black. Discoloration of a dead tooth will increase over time, and the tooth will get darker and darker.

Dead tooth pain

Pain and sensitivity are common symptoms, although they do not appear with the same intensity in all patients. The most common cause of pain in a dead tooth is the infection and swelling inside the tooth that puts pressure on the periodontal membrane.

Infection is likely to occur inside the tooth, if the tooth channel has not been sealed, or is not completely sealed. Or the infection can settle in the crack of the root if this suddenly happens with a tooth. One way or another, bacteria find a spot inside the tooth.

Other possible signs of a dead or dying tooth:

  • Dead tooth smell in your mouth
  • Bad breath and taste in your mouth due to infection
  • Swelling around the teeth

What causes a dead tooth?

A dead tooth is a tooth that no longer receives a new amount of blood.

One of your teeth is turning gray or black and changing its color from the rest of your teeth. There are two leading causes of a dead tooth

Tooth decay

Tooth decay can be a result of poor dental hygiene. It begins with damage to the tooth’s surface or enamel. Bacteria attack the outer layer of the tooth and start destroying it. If not appropriately treated in the first place, it can lead to cavities, which are tiny openings or holes in your teeth.

These small openings allow bacteria to reach the pulp. Healthy pulp will fight to avoid any infection, but the increasing pressure inside the pulp can result in cutting off the blood supply. The outcome can be a necrotic or dead tooth.

At the same time, the tissues around the tooth are a battlefield, and the nerve endings in them nervously respond to what is happening, you are likely to experience pain. It reveals the importance of dental care to prevent tooth decay.

Tooth Trauma

Despite maintaining good dental hygiene, you can not escape a tooth death through a second route. A serious sports injury or a bad fall while walking can cause blood vessels to burst and blood supply to be cut off. If not addressed quickly, Trauma or injury to your tooth can be another reason for a dead tooth.

The process does not have to be immediate, and the injury can go on for weeks without the patient noticing significant changes in his teeth.

Dead tooth pain relief

Pain Management: The pulp nerve is the part of the tooth that can feel the temperature when you eat or drink something hot/cold. And, it also lets you know if you are biting something too hard, as well as making you feel pain. If your tooth is causing a lot of pain, there are some things you can do at home while waiting for treatment.

  • Avoid hot drinks. They can increase inflammation, which can make your pain worse.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory drug as recommended by your dentist.
  • Avoid eating hard foods. The strength of the bite can make the pain worse.
  • It is essential to see your dentist right away.

Home “treatment” should not replace medical care. Instead, you should use these methods while waiting for your appointment.

Dead tooth treatment

Dental treatment is essential to fix a dead tooth. You should always visit your dentist after a tooth injury or if you have any signs of a dead tooth. So your dentist can start treatment as soon as possible. It is essential to treat a dead tooth to avoid further damage.
If a tooth is dying, there are two options of treatment:

Root canal treatment

Even a dead tooth can be useful if it is adequately treated. Root canal treatment is one of the most widely used treatments in dentistry and is intended to save a tooth that is considered dead, diseased, or damaged.

Root canal treatment is a conservative procedure that consists of the total or partial extraction of the injured pulp of a tooth and the sealing of the pulp canal. Root canal treatment, also known as endodontics, consist of the following actions:

Local anesthesia of the affected area, so that you do not suffer pain during the process.

Isolation of the tooth, to avoid infection after carrying out the operation.

Cameral opening, opening of the area to intervene.

Conductometry. It is one of the vital moments to carry out a good cleaning and obturation of the root canals since it tries to measure the working length.

Obturation. In this case,  the tooth cavity is filled with a particular material that restores the functionality of the tooth. You will not have any more problems.

In many cases, a dental crown is a good option to add support and strength to the tooth. A dental crown can also help in root canal treatment, you may need to visit your dentist more than once as it is a lengthy process.

Dead tooth extraction

  • Nobody likes the extraction of teeth, but when it is not possible to restore a dead tooth, the best avenue for treatment is extraction.
  • Tooth extraction is an act of completely removing the dead or diseased tooth. Tooth extraction is a simple procedure and relatively cheap as compared to root canal treatment.
  • This procedure is done by gripping the tooth tightly, and then it is pulled from the gums. After the extraction, the dead tooth can be replaced with an implant, bridge, or denture. It depends on the situation and your dentist’s recommendations.
  • During extraction, you will feel pressure but not pain as the dentist will anesthetize the specific area. In case you start to feel a prick or pain, notify your dentist immediately.

Alyssa Bieler

Alyssa Bieler is a writer with a medical background, currently working for a county health department in Florida. She is a well-respected public health researcher on a variety of topics related to nutrition, wellness, and health.

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