What is a Dead Tooth?
You may not think of your teeth as being alive, but they are. The outer shell, called the enamel, is the hardest substance in the human body. However, the nerves and blood vessels at the heart of your teeth are soft and vulnerable. If this inner layer (known as the pulp) becomes damaged, blood may stop flowing. A tooth with no blood flow is called a “dead” tooth. Without treatment, this tooth may become infected or abscessed and will eventually fall out.
What Causes a Dead Tooth?
Trauma or injury is a common reason for a tooth to die. Falling or being hit in the mouth can cut off the blood supply to a tooth or even cause blood vessels to burst. With no blood flow, the nerve inside the pulp dies.
Tooth decay is another possible cause. Without consistent dental hygiene habits, cavities can start to form. Left untreated, decay slowly eats through the tooth toward the sensitive pulp, eventually causing an infection. Inflammation may cut off blood flow to the pulp, causing the tooth to die.
How to Spot a Dead Tooth
It isn’t always easy to identify a dead tooth. Only a dental professional can pinpoint signs of restricted blood flow and a dying tooth in its early stages, which is why regular dentist visits are so important. Before long, though, the problem will soon become apparent.
Pain is the first symptom to watch out for. This may seem odd because the nerve inside your tooth is dead, but that’s not where the pain comes from. Bacteria and dead nerve remnants touching the extremely sensitive nerve endings around your tooth, called the periodontal membrane, are the source of your pain.
A change in color comes next. Dead teeth often darken over time as red blood cells die. This is very similar to developing a bruise. If a single tooth in your mouth gradually becomes yellow, gray, or black, visit the dentist right away.
Signs of infection could also appear if the dead tooth doesn’t receive treatment. You may notice swelling, a bad taste in your mouth, or an inflamed sore on your gums.
Treatment for a Dead Tooth
A root canal is the first option. Dentists want to avoid removing teeth whenever possible, and this procedure could save a dead or dying tooth. It involves removing all signs of decay and infection from deep within the tooth. Then, the dentist fills and seals it. In many cases, a crown is needed following a root canal.
Tooth extraction is the next choice. Even if your dentist can’t save your tooth, prompt treatment is necessary to avoid other complications. Once removed, you have several options for replacing the missing tooth, including an implant, bridge, or partial denture.
Park 56 Dental offers tooth care and smile restorations out of our spa-like, patient-centered New York dentist office. If you notice signs of a dead tooth, please contact us online or call us at (212) 826-2322 to schedule an appointment.