Our teeth consist of a mixture of soft and hard tissue. People often tend not to think of teeth as living teeth, but healthy teeth are pretty much alive. However, the blood supply may stop when the tooth nerves are dying due to damage to its inner layer (the pulp). This may be especially true after the blood flow stops and the pulp gets infected. And after the nerves die in the tooth, it becomes “dead” too. Experts also call a tooth such as this a “non-vital tooth.”

A dying tooth can cause great discomfort to the patients, and the dead tooth smell that accompanies the issue might be the most concerning for some, but in reality, there are more severe consequences to dead teeth.

A dying tooth should be addressed as soon as possible. If you are looking for options regarding dental therapy in Miami, you can always reach out to us to discuss your concerns.

In the meantime, read on to find out more about what might lead to tooth nerves dying, tooth decay, and dead teeth.

Symptoms of a Dying Tooth

Attractive Caucasian Woman Visiting Dentist

As mentioned before, a dead tooth no longer has working nerves and no longer gets the blood it needs to keep alive. For the most part, discoloration is the first telltale sign of a dying tooth, and often, there may be radiating pain in the tooth or around it, in the gums.

Healthy teeth will usually be a shade of white, but based on your oral hygiene and diet, your teeth may be uniformly light yellow or off-white.

The discoloration in the case of a dead tooth will be more obvious, as the tooth in question will have a different color than the rest. It may be darker yellow, light brown, sometimes even black or gray. And as tooth decay continues and as the tooth nerves die, the discoloration will be even more obvious.

Apart from tooth decay and discoloration, pain may be another obvious symptom. Still, some patients feel no pain with a dead tooth, for some, it’s only mild discomfort, and then some patients will feel intense pain which is most often the result of the tooth nerve dying.

Other accompanying symptoms may include:

  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Gumline swelling
  • Bad breath (dead tooth smell)

Causes of a Dead Tooth

Mostly, the main culprit behind these cases is either injury or trauma to the tooth. For example, when the patient gets hit on the mouth with something, the impact may hurt the nerves and cause the tooth to die. The impacted tooth may die swiftly, within a few days, or it may take longer, often weeks, months, or even years.

There are cases when the tooth dies as a result of the lack of oral hygiene. Not brushing and flossing regularly may lead to cavities, tooth decay, and other problems that may destroy the teeth. Cavities usually start at the enamel; when left untreated, they may reach the tooth’s pulp. When this happens, infection usually occurs, cutting off the blood supply and causing the tooth to die. Once the tooth decay has reached the pulp, patients will likely experience tremendous pain.

Diagnosis 

Dying teeth can simply be detected during a routine dental exam due to obvious discoloration or when X-rays are involved. 

As such, tooth injuries shouldn’t be dismissed or any other symptoms that may signify a dying tooth. These cases need timely treatment to avoid even more severe dental problems down the road. 

Dead Tooth Treatment

When left untreated, the bacteria from the dead teeth may spread across the mouth and may infect additional teeth, leading to even more pronounced teeth loss. In other cases, the infection may even spread to the gums and/or the jawbone. 

Regarding treatment, dental experts will recommend one of the following procedures: Root canal or tooth extraction or removal.

Root Canal

If you and your dental expert opt for this procedure, you might be able to save the dying tooth. During the root canal, your dental expert will open the tooth’s area to clean out the infection and extract the pulp. When the area is clean of infection, the dental expert will seal and fill in the root and seal the opening with a permanent filling.

When tending to a dying tooth with a root canal, some patients will also need a crown, especially when there was a large filling or when the enamel was damaged. Following a root canal treatment, posterior teeth may become brittle over time, and a crown can prevent this issue from happening and can be molded to have the same color as the rest of your teeth.

If you don’t need a crown, tooth bleaching may be enough to tend to the discoloration, or your dentist may also recommend covering the affected tooth with a porcelain veneer. 

Extraction or Removal

Alternatively, your dental expert may also recommend removing the dying tooth, especially in the case of severe damage, where the tooth can’t be restored. During extraction, the dentist will remove the affected tooth completely and replace it with a bridge, denture, or implant. 

While you wait for treatment and experience immense pain from the dead tooth and the dying nerves, here are a few tips you can do to make your situation more bearable:

  • Don’t drink hot drinks as they can increase the inflammation, making the pain even worse.
  • Use OTC anti-inflammatory drugs like Mortin or Advil.
  • Try eating soft food, as biting down on something hard can aggravate the already hurting nerves.

Again, it’s essential to reach out to your doctor immediately if you suspect that the tooth nerves are dying in one of your teeth to avoid even more damage.

Prevention Tips

Girl Visit to the Dentist

While preventing injury isn’t always possible, there are some things you can be mindful of to ensure that you reduce your risks.

  • Focus on healthy oral hygiene, flossing at least once, and brushing your teeth twice a day.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups at least twice a year. Preventative care can potentially stop problems before they even become concerns. Dentists are experts at detecting early tooth decay symptoms and treating the problem before bacteria can reach the pulp.
  • Use mouthguards to protect your teeth from injury and trauma if you are into contact sports. 
  • Avoid sugary foods that can increase the chances of tooth decay.
  • Drink enough water to wash away infection-causing bacteria from your teeth throughout the day.

Get The Best Help Possible

We here at Gables sedation and family dentistry know that a dying and infected tooth can cause a lot of trouble, even for those patients who don’t feel any pain. Anyone who has suffered an injury to their teeth and suspects that there may be something serious going on should reach out to their dentist to see the extent of the damage.

Dead teeth can lead to severe complications and may devastate the entire structure of the mouth. If you are experiencing discoloration, bad breath, and pain, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.