What Exactly Is A Dead Tooth? How To Prevent One and What To Do If You Have One

What Exactly Is A Dead Tooth? How To Prevent One and What To Do If You Have One

According to recent reports, a whopping 91 percent of Americans aged 20-64 have tooth decay in their permanent teeth. By the time they turn 65, that number jumps to 95 percent!

Many people don’t even realize they’re walking around with tooth decay until something goes wrong and they need emergency dental care.

Of all the issues that can stem from tooth decay, one of the worst and most unsightly is a dead tooth. Never heard of this condition before?

Read on to learn more about dealing with a dead tooth. You’ll also learn how to spot and prevent one from popping up.

What is a Dead Tooth?

A dead tooth isn’t just something funny that Maureen Ponderosa had to deal with on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s actually a pretty serious dental issue.

A dead tooth is a tooth that no longer receives any blood flow. Because the blood flow is cut off, the nerve cannot survive and the tooth essentially “dies.” When it dies, it becomes gray and will eventually fall out.

Dead teeth are sometimes referred to as “non-vital” teeth.

Dead Tooth Symptoms

Dead teeth aren’t always easy to spot, especially if they’re present toward the back of the jaw. In most cases, you need to visit a dentist to have the tooth diagnosed as “dead.”

There are three main symptoms associated with dead teeth, though: pain, signs of infection, and discoloration.

Pain

If you have a tooth that has died or is dying, you’ll likely experience some level of pain.

You might be wondering how you can experience pain in a tooth when the nerve is dead.

Keep in mind, though, that the pain doesn’t actually come from inside the tooth. Instead, it comes from the nerve endings that are found in the area surrounding the tooth. This is known as the periodontal membrane.

When your tooth dies, bacteria, remnants of the dead nerve, and pus can build up in the pulp cavity within the tooth. This buildup, in turn, places pressure on the periodontal membrane and causes a great deal of pain for most people.

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Signs of Infection

Sometimes, a dead tooth becomes infected.

If this happens, an abscess may form, and you may experience other unpleasant symptoms.

You may have a bad taste in your mouth or chronically bad breath, no matter how often you brush your teeth.

You might notice swelling around the infection site, or you might even develop a pimple on your gums.

Discoloration

Dead teeth often develop a darker color. They may turn yellow, grey, or even black. This change in color occurs as a result of red blood cell death.

Discoloration occurs after a dead tooth has gone untreated for a significant period of time. If your tooth continues to go untreated, the discoloration will get worse.

What Causes a Dead Tooth?

Most often, a dead tooth is the result of untreated tooth decay.

If tooth decay goes untreated for an extended period of time, cavities can develop. If the cavities go untreated, they will eventually reach the pulp of the tooth and carve out a pathway for bacteria to get in and cause infections.

Over time, the infections will increase pressure and inflammation inside the tooth. This cuts off the blood supply, starves the nerve, and effectively “kills” the tooth.

Tooth Trauma

Tooth decay is the most common cause of a dead tooth, but you may also develop one if you’ve experienced some kind of physical trauma to your tooth.

For example, if you suffer a sports injury or fall and hit your tooth, you could cause the blood vessels to burst. This, in turn, cuts off blood supply to the tooth and can cause the tooth to die.

Dead Tooth Treatment Options

According to this useful post, there are a couple of different treatment options available to you if you’re dealing with a dead tooth.

Before you can seek treatment for a dead tooth, your dentist first needs to determine that you’re actually dealing with one and not some other kind of oral health issue. In most cases, your dentist will use an x-ray to diagnose you with a dead tooth.

After you’ve been diagnosed, your dentist will either extract the tooth or perform a root canal.

Root Canal

Generally speaking, dentists do not like to remove teeth.

Before they extract the dead tooth altogether, they may try to save it with a root canal. The purpose of a root canal is to clear out the infection and seal the tooth off to prevent future infections.

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Sometimes, if the dentist catches the dead tooth early enough, a root canal can keep the tooth in place. The dentist may place a crown over the tooth for added support and protection.

Tooth Extraction

If a root canal isn’t effective, your dentist will likely have to remove your tooth. After the tooth has been pulled, your dentist may fill in the gap with a fixed bridge or a dental implant.

Dead Tooth Prevention

It’s always easier to prevent dental health issues than it is to treat them, and dead teeth are no exception.

The easiest way to prevent a dead tooth is to make sure you’re brushing and flossing on a regular basis. Visit your dentist twice a year, too, for check-ups and professional cleanings.

If you play high-impact sports on a regular basis, be sure to wear a mouthguard. This will help to minimize your risk of dealing with a dead tooth caused by physical trauma.

Get More Oral Health Advice Today

Now that you know more about preventing and treating a dead tooth, it’s time to take action and make your oral health a priority moving forward.

Whether you already are dealing with a dead tooth or if you just want to avoid developing one in the future, following these guidelines will be very helpful.

Do you want to learn about other strategies you can use to attain and maintain good oral health?

If so, be sure to check out the Dental and Tooth section of our website today.

You’ll find all kinds of helpful information here on everything from dental care for aging adults to the ins and outs of dental implants.

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