Most people who are doing research on dead teeth are trying to answer one of several questions.
It might be:
- What causes a dead tooth?
- How can I prevent dead teeth?
- What are the symptoms of a dead tooth?
- How are dead teeth treated?
- Can a dying tooth be saved?
We’ll provide the answers for all of those. However, we’ll start with the most likely reason you found this page. You probably aren’t even sure whether your tooth is dead in the first place.
More likely than not, you found this page because you’ve been asking yourself:
Is My Tooth Dead?
It’s not always easy to figure out whether your tooth is dead or not.
Only a dental professional can tell you for sure. But you can start with a self diagnosis. The two main symptoms of a dead tooth are pain and change in color. You may have one or both.
If your tooth is dead or dying, your level of pain may be extreme or nonexistent. Intensity of pain usually increases when there is an infection. If the infection leads to an abscess, you might also experience symptoms such as foul taste, foul odor, or a pimple on your gums .
As far as the color change goes, you might notice yellow, grey, or black discoloration. This effect is usually caused by dying red blood cells. It is very similar to bruising. This discoloration generally increase over time without treatment.
Luckily, a dying tooth does not necessarily need to be removed. That’s because the term “dead tooth” is almost a misnomer.
What Is a Non Vital Tooth?
Teeth without a live nerve in them are referred to as non vital by dental professionals.
Think of vital in terms of the word “vitality”. Non vital does not mean that the tooth is not important, just that there is no living nerve within it. Non vital teeth are still functional as the majority of any tooth isn’t alive anyway.
Teeth are maybe up of layers. The innermost is called the pulp. It contains blood vessels and the nerve. This is really the only part of your tooth that is considered alive.
So what we calling a tooth dead is a bit misleading. Nerves in teeth help us sense hot or cold. Pain can also serve as an indicator of decay. However, losing the feeling in your tooth does not necessarily mean that you have to lose the tooth—or its use.
It kind of depends on why the nerve in your tooth is dying.
Causes of a Dead Tooth
The nerve and other living tissues usually die due to a lack of blood flow.
Blood provides sustenance for all of the body’s living cells, tooth pulp included. Once the pulp begins to die, bacteria can begin to feed on the decaying matter. They can thrive inside your newly-hollowed tooth and cause intense pain.
This situation generally comes about in one of two ways.
Allowing cavities to get too far out of hand can result in a dying tooth.
Tooth decay begins on the tooth’s outermost layer. Alouded to progress unchecked, cavities can penetrate into deeper layers of the tooth and eventually reach the pulp.
Bacteria are produced as cavities decay. Deep cavities provide a direct path for this bacteria to the living tissues inside your teeth. Your body will do its best to fight off the infection with an inflammatory reaction. Without help though, your white blood cells are doomed to fail.
Eventually, blood flow to the tooth can stop completely and the nerve will starve. As this happens, you will probably have an intense toothache.
This should make it obvious how important dental care is, both professional and at home. Do your best to prevent tooth decay. But don’t hesitate to go see a dental professional when you notice cavities.
The other common cause of dead teeth isn’t surprising either.
When teeth take hard knocks, the blood vessels within can burst. This results in a loss of blood flow and the eventual death of the nerve and other living tissues within the pulp. When your tooth gets hit this hard, you’re likely to remember.
Oftentimes though, that initial hit is just the first taste of pain you’re going to get. If the blow was hard enough to chip or crack your tooth, you may be in for quite a painful experience. It’s smart to see a dentist whenever you have an event that you think may cause trauma.
You can also cause gradual dental trauma overtime by clenching or grinding your teeth. Therefore, compulsive jaw clenchers and sleeptime grinders are at an increased risk to have teeth die as they grow older.
Depending on how your why your teeth are dying, you might have multiple treatment options.
Dead Tooth Treatment
If you suspect your tooth might be dying, early treatment is crucial.
If you allow the bacterial infection inside your tooth to grow, it can leak out from the root of your tooth and begin to attack your jawbone. This will eventually cause the tooth to fall out anyway.
But don’t let that tempt you to avoid treatment and wait for the tooth for remove itself on its own. This process is painful and leads to further damage. You increase the risk that you will lose other teeth as well.
In many cases, pain pushes people to seek treatment. However, not all dying teeth are painful at first. Don’t underestimate how painful a dying tooth can be just because yours isn’t painful yet.
Most of the dental community asserts that there are only two solutions for a dying tooth—extraction and root canal. While we believe there is more to the story, we’ll start there.
Extraction is generally the last resort.
No one wants to have their teeth removed. But it may be the only option you are left with if you fail to seek treatment soon enough. Tooth extraction is a simple procedure that is relatively cheap and painless. Replacing that tooth with a dental prosthetic can make it more pricey though.
Most people would prefer to avoid removing their teeth as much as possible. If you see them early enough, most dentists will recommend a root canal procedure when they can.
Root canals are rather involved and therefore more expensive than extractions.
Root canal therapy is considered ideal for many situations. It involves cleaning out dead tissue and decay from the pulp then reconstruction of all that may have been removed the process. It is prefered to other procedures, especially when nearby teeth have already been lost or removed.
For many, the thought of a root canal is intimidating. However, it is generally a painless procedure that is routine for most dentists. As a common high-ticket surgery, it is one of the dental profession’s mainstays. This might be why many dentists still maintain that it is a necessity.
However, more and more people are waking up to the potential of actually healing a dying tooth.
Tooth extraction and root canals certainly have their place.
We don’t dispute it: if you allow the infection within your tooth to progress too far, your only options will be surgical options.
However, there is more and more evidence that we can help our bodies fight off the bacteria that attacks the tooth’s live tissue. Many people reference the power of our bodies to heal when given the right nutrition. Others talk about the use of natural remedies that help save dying teeth.
The fact is, the death of most teeth occur over time. Your body tries its best to save the tooth. And infections within the tooth can be beaten back.
There might not be a solution that will work everytime. But considering the importance of teeth and cost of surgical treatment options, you’d be foolish to not at least attempt to save your dying tooth.
Then, you might want to look into how to prevent the same situation from coming up again in another tooth. After all, you don’t have to treat something you prevented instead.
How To Prevent Teeth From Dying
It’s more convenient (and much less painful) to prevent your tooth from dying in the first place.
The number one thing you need to do when trying to prevent your teeth from dying is to take care of them. Daily dental care is the most important step in combatting the death of your teeth. Don’t discount the value of regular regular visits to your dentist either.
If you allow your teeth to decay, they will inevitably start to die. So prevent it as best you can. Similarly, you want to avoid trauma to your teeth.
Protect your teeth from hard blows by wearing a mouthguard when playing sports. Don’t do things like chew on ice or open anything with your teeth. If you grind your teeth at night, consider a nighttime mouthguard or other treatment.
Obviously, it would be impossible to predict and prevent all dental trauma. Just take what precautions you can to avoid it as much as possible. If you do take a hard knock, provide your body with the nutrition it needs to help the tooth heal itself.
You’ve already taken the first step to make sure your teeth as long as possible: education.
From here, it is on you to use this information as you see fit. Do what you can to prevent trauma and decay. And if you realize that you have one that is starting to show signs of dying, act fast.