Is Your Tooth Alive? How To Know If a Tooth Is Dead

How to know if a tooth is dead

How to know if a tooth is dead? If you went to the dentist and he or she said your tooth died, don’t panic. As horrible as it is to hear such a thing, all is not lost, Believe me! There is a way, yes, to “resuscitate a dead tooth.”

Many people do not realize that teeth are alive, and they have nerves and blood vessels like the rest of your body. Dead or dying nerves in the pulp can lead to the death of a tooth. To understand what is a dead tooth and how to know if a tooth is dead and why it can occur, you first need to be clear about the basic anatomy of a tooth. 

What is a dead tooth?

How to know if a tooth is dead
How to know if a tooth is dead

Our teeth are made up of three layers: tooth enamel, dentin, and pulp. 

The enamel: It is the visible face of the tooth. It is an insensitive, hard, and mineralized fabric that works as a protective layer of a tooth.  Poor hygiene practices, unhealthy habits, or accidental injuries can cause it to become damaged.

The dentin: It is the bottom layer of the enamel at a second depth level. Dentin does have sensitivity since it is made up of tiny canals that connect directly to the inside of the tooth. This is why tooth decay can be painful once it passes through the enamel and enters this layer.

The pulp: The pulp is made up of nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue, and cells. The primary function of the pulp is to provide sensation as well as nutrition to a tooth. 

For these reasons, the pulp is also the living part of the tooth. It is the softest tissue and most sensitive and delicate part, which explains why there are two other layers of protection above it.

A dead nerve in the tooth: The beginning of the end
A tooth is dead when it has no access to nutrients or blood flow. Since all the blood vessels and nerve fibers are located in the pulp, if it dies, the tooth also dies. 

How to know if a tooth is dead? Signs of a dead tooth

Diagnosing a dead tooth is not always easy. In the absence of visible signs, the usual symptoms of this problem can be confused with those of other conditions. In many cases, routine inspection of the dental pieces will not be enough to make an accurate diagnosis and x-rays will have to be taken to determine what is happening inside the tooth.

However, you must recognize the possible symptoms. The main ones are 

Tooth discoloration

If the tooth is dead, a darker color will often be noticed.  Yellow, gray, or black discoloration may be noted. The change in color generally occurs because the red blood cells are dying.

Dying tooth color is different from the rest of your teeth. If you notice you have a tooth with different color, it can be a sign of a dying tooth. Dying tooth color is yellow, gray, or even black in some cases. But you will notice it before it gets black. The color of a dying tooth will get darker as the tooth continues to decay.

Dead tooth pain


A dying or dead tooth can be extremely painful. But in some cases, patients don’t feel pain. The leading cause of pain is the dying nerve. Another most common cause of pain in a dead tooth is infection. 

Some people don’t know the reason behind the pain if the nerve is already dead.  The dying tooth pain is not from inside the tooth, but it is due to pressure on the most sensitive nerve ending called the periodontal membrane. The second typical source of pain in a dead tooth is the ligament on which the tooth hangs. 

Dental trauma

Getting hit in the mouth due to a bad fall, or a sports injury is another possible cause of a dying tooth. Trauma or damage to your tooth may cause blood vessels to burst. In this case, the blood supply to the tooth may be cut off.  Eventually, because the blood does not flow to the tooth, the nerve and other living tissues within the pulp will die.

Other signs of a dead tooth include:
Bad breath, medically called halitosis, is also a symptom indicating that something is not right in the mouth. It is an unpleasant experience to have a dead tooth smell coming from the mouth. It is essential to see your dentist right away.

Swollen around your gums can be another sign of a dying tooth. Bacteria may cause your gums to become inflamed, which results in swollen gums. 
These are the common signs to know or diagnose a dying or dead.

Early treatment is vital to fix a dying tooth, even if you don’t feel pain. It is essential to go for a checkup after an injury to your tooth or noticing a discoloration. It is essential to visit the dentist from time to time, to avoid any infection or bacteria in our teeth.

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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