A Dead Tooth: What You Have To Know

Signs, Causes and Treatments

Some people keep a dead tooth or two in their mouths with a large cavity in it, a defective filling, or a discolored appearance. If such a tooth does not bother them, then no dental treatment is sought at all. It is properly known as a non-vital tooth as there is no longer any blood flow to it.

There are two symptoms that can tell you that a tooth is dead – pain and change in color. Pain from a dead or dying tooth is anywhere from non-existent to extremely painful. A dying nerve or an infection usually causes an increase in pain.

And why should there be pain when a tooth is considered dead or dying? Pain comes from very sensitive nerve endings around the outside of the tooth, the periodontal membrane. A combination of bacteria and dead nerve remnants, or pus, builds up in the pulp cavity and puts pressure on the periodontal membrane, which can cause severe pain. On the other hand, an infection may turn into an abscess and produce symptoms like bad taste or smell, swelling, or a pustule on the gums that can be clogged or infected.

A change in color, like yellowish to gray or black, may signify a tooth death. Red blood cells are dying, which is a very similar effect to bruising. If a dead tooth remains untreated the discoloration increases over time.

What causes a tooth to die?

It’s either tooth decay or tooth trauma. Tooth decay starts with an untreated cavity on a tooth surface inviting bacteria to enter and penetrate deeper, as far as the pulp which is rich in nerves and blood supply and cause inflammation. Pressure inside the pulp increases, cutting off the blood supply, starving the nerve, and killing the pulp. This can cause intense pain. Tooth trauma caused by sports injuries, accidents and blows to the mouth can cause blood vessels to burst and blood supply to be cut off. Eventually, nerve and other living tissues in the pulp die.

What are the treatment options?

It’s either one of two: root canal treatment or tooth extraction. Root canal is an effort of the dentist to save the tooth. It’s a long process of clearing the infection, cleaning debris and sealing the tooth permanently. A crown is fitted if extra support is needed. Tooth extraction removes the tooth completely if it is beyond saving.

Doing Something for a Dead Tooth in Bellingham

Don’t do nothing for a dead or dying tooth when you would like to save it. See us right away at Tetrick Family Dentistry in Bellingham, WA.