If you suspect that you have a dead or dying tooth, it’s crucial that you figure out what’s going on before it’s too late. There are plenty of signs of a dead tooth, but most people aren’t familiar with them as some are similar to the same symptoms of tooth sensitivity and other dental hygiene issues.
What we’ll share in this article:
- The definition of a dead tooth and how it dies
- 4 signs to look out for that could indicate a dying tooth
- Treatment options available for dead or dying teeth
Read on to keep your teeth healthy & safe!
🤷 So, What Exactly Is a Dead Tooth? 🤷
A dead tooth is essentially what it sounds like — a tooth that has died. A dead tooth occurs when the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues that keep it alive become severely damaged to the point where the blood supply to that tooth is lost.
The initial blood flow to that tooth can be disrupted by either external factors or internal factors, but the result is always the same. Dead teeth don’t happen all at once. It takes a while for the pulp and other functional matter of the teeth to weaken, and if they’re unable to repair themselves, they continue to weaken until they die off completely.
Below are a few ways in which the pulp and other functional components of a tooth can become injured:
- When a tooth becomes cracked
- When deep cavities form
- When a tooth experiences a hard hit that causes damage or cuts the blood supply to that tooth
Mostly, poor dental hygiene is to blame for a dead or dying tooth as tooth decay directly impacts roughly 85.58% of Americans between the ages of 24 and 34 years. That percentage increases as the age range increases.
🛑 The 4 Signs of a Dead or Dying Tooth 🛑
Contrary to what many people believe, pain isn’t always associated with a dead or dying tooth. Many people don’t experience intense pain — let alone any pain at all — when they have a dead or dying tooth. This often leads to not knowing there’s a dead tooth to begin with.
While regular dental checkups are essential to ensuring you don’t have a dead or dying tooth, these are the four signs you’ll want to pay attention to in between visits:
1. Tooth discoloration
One of the most common indicators of a dead or dying tooth is a change in color compared to the surrounding teeth. When the blood supply is disrupted, and the tooth begins to die, the dead tooth will typically become gray in color. However, a dead tooth will also sometimes present itself in shades of brown, black, and even yellow.
2. Foul odors
A dead tooth decays just like any other living organism as it dies. If you notice a consistently bad taste in your mouth or noticeably bad breath, it’s a sign of a dead or dying tooth.
3. Tooth sensitivity or pain
When any nerve in your body becomes damaged or starts dying off, you’re going to feel it to some extent. While many people go without pain when their tooth is dying, there are still people who will experience pain and sensitivity. Your dead tooth may become extra sensitive to hot or cold foods or there may be pain while chewing on the side of the mouth where the dying or dead tooth is located.
4. Swelling or an abscess
It’s very common for a bacterial infection to occur when there’s a dying tooth. This infection can lead to swelling along the gumline of the dead tooth or cause an abscess just beneath the surface of the gumline.
🧑⚕️ Treatment Options For Dying or Dead Teeth 🧑⚕️
While injury trauma from sports or even an incoming wisdom tooth can cause the sudden and unexpected end of a tooth, hygiene-related dead teeth are 100% avoidable by keeping up with a routine dental appointment and taking care of your oral hygiene in between dentist visits.
If you have a dead or dying tooth, only a dental professional will know how to determine the extent of the damage and whether or not the proper blood flow can be returned to save the tooth. However, the most common treatment options for a dead tooth include:
- Root canals. A root canal is an endodontic procedure that involves removing the nerves, pulp, and other components of the inner tooth after it has become infected. Once all of the matter is removed to stop further tooth decay, the tooth is filled and sealed to prevent further damage. Root canals are designed to save the structure of the tooth to prevent the need for a replacement tooth or a more involved restoration procedure.
- Tooth extraction. Untreated tooth decay can and will take over to the point where there are no other options but to extract the dead tooth completely. Otherwise, it may impact the surrounding teeth as the injection spreads throughout the gumline. Dead tooth extractions are typically the last resort, as dental professionals never want an individual’s tooth to die. Dental extractions are also often followed up with dental implants, which are crafted to match the aesthetic of your surrounding teeth and function just the same.
Always Take Care of Your Teeth
No matter what, it’s important to keep up with your oral hygiene daily to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Having a dead tooth is no laughing matter, and you may not have dental insurance to cover the procedure needed to treat the affected tooth. Fortunately, this can all be avoided if you remember the signs and brush and floss regularly.
If you think you may have a dying or dead tooth, make plans to see your dentist as soon as possible. The last thing you want is for your tooth to die when it can be saved — or for a bad infection to travel through your gums, causing more problems for your mouth and overall health.
When you’re ready, book an appointment with the dental professionals at Wayzata Dental. We’ll make sure you’re taken care of, and if you have a dead tooth, we’ll find the best possible solution for your health and budget if you don’t have dental insurance.