Your teeth may not look like they are made from living material, but the inner layer of your teeth is made up of soft tissues.
They contain nerves and pulp that rely on blood flow to help them stay alive.
The enamel on the outer part of your teeth serves as a hard shell that protects the vulnerable nerves from damage that can cause the tooth to die.
Severe Trauma Can Cause a Tooth to Die
- A severe blow to the tooth could cause the pulp to lose its blood supply.
- Extensive decay and fractures also allow bacteria to reach the interior of the tooth.
Once this happens, an untreated infection that goes on long enough can damage the tooth beyond repair.
A dead tooth typically generates some signs that something is wrong. Any of the following symptoms are signs that you may have a dead or dying tooth that needs treatment right away.
Do You See Clear Discoloration?
Healthy teeth are never all exactly the same color. Normal teeth colors can vary from a very bright white to shades of yellow.
However, a dead tooth will often have discoloration that is very different from the rest of your teeth.
A dead tooth may be brown, black or even a grayish hue. Instead of being just one spot like a cavity, the discoloration may take up the whole tooth.
The color may also continue to darken until the nerve completely dies.
Are You In Severe Pain?
An early infection in the tooth pulp usually creates temporary instances of pain. You may feel brief pain when you bite down on your food. Sensitivity to hot or cold foods is also normal for reversible pulpitis.
Once the infection has lead to the tooth dying, the pain becomes relentless. Some of our patients describe this pain as a constant throb that feels unbearable. Others find it to be tolerable but worse when they eat or drink.
If the pain goes away, don’t think the problem is solved. Severe pain that is suddenly followed by relief might mean that the nerve has finally died.
Do You Show Signs of an Infection?
A dental infection can generate similar symptoms as you might find with other types of bacterial illnesses. You may run a fever with a dying tooth.
You might also notice a foul taste in your mouth that is from the infected pus draining out. Swelling along the gum line is a sign that the dying tooth is developing an abscess that has the potential to spread.
Have You Had a Dental Exam Recently?
You might not notice the signs of a dead or dying tooth until we do a dental exam.
Dying teeth are identifiable on an x-ray, and we can spot symptoms such as an abscess in the early stages of development.
We sometimes refer to a dead tooth as being non-vital.
While it may seem as though there is nothing left to do once a tooth has died, we do need to treat it to prevent future problems.
For example, the infection can spread to other parts of your gums and lead to additional tooth loss.
We can perform a root canal to clear out the infected or dying pulp.
Extraction is also an option, and we can follow up with implants or dentures to restore your smile.
Dead teeth need treatment, and we can help you figure out the best course of action to bring your smile back to life.