Dead Tooth/Dead Tooth Nerve
Healthy teeth are the foundation for a radiant smile and also to our general health and sense of self-esteem. No one expects a tooth to die. It is important to know what could cause this to happen, how to spot a dying tooth, and what your dentist can do to address this problem.
What is a dead tooth?
A tooth has three layers. At the center is pulp, soft tissue made of nerves and blood vessels. The middle layer, dentin, is semi-soft and acts as a barrier. The outer layer is the white enamel that we see when we look at a tooth.
A dead tooth is one that is no longer receiving blood supply. We may refer to this as “non-vital.” Once the blood supply has stopped circulating through all layers of the tooth, the tooth dies and will eventually fall out.
It is not wise to allow this to happen. A dead tooth is highly-susceptible to hidden infection that could cause serious health problems.
What causes a tooth to die?
The two primary factors that could cause a tooth to die include tooth decay and injury.
Tooth decay is also known as a cavity. Cavities begin at the outermost layer, enamel, as a result of acidity. If a cavity goes untreated, it will deepen. A cavity that passes through the enamel and reaches softer dentin tissue can quickly spread infection to the center of the tooth, where the nerve lives. It is an infection in the pulp of the tooth that causes inflammation and pressure. The pressure cuts off blood supply to the nerve and other parts of the tooth. Not only can this cause intense pain but this will destroy the tooth.
An injury to a tooth can also cause the blood supply to be cut off. A fall or trauma during sports or other activities may cause no substantial visible damage but may disrupt blood supply enough that the tooth dies. This can happen within a day or two or could happen gradually.
Can a dead tooth be saved?
It is not possible to bring a dead tooth back to a normal, healthy condition. However, the tooth structure can be saved if treatment is sought early. To save a tooth that has been badly damaged, a dentist will perform root canal treatment.
Root canal therapy is the procedure in which the dead and infected soft matter at the center of the tooth (pulp) is removed. The dental pulp contains the nerves that are causing pain, blood vessels, and soft tissue that buffers the nerve. After removing the infected tissue, the empty root canal is cleaned with a sterilizing solution. It is then filled with an inert material called gutta-percha. This closing of the canal prevents new bacteria from entering the space and causing recurring infection. The treated tooth may need to be restored with a dental crown to prevent breaking.
How long does it take for a tooth to die?
It is nearly impossible to estimate how long it takes for a tooth to die. When a tooth dies from an injury, blood supply may be diminished within a day, a few weeks, or over several months. If the signs of a dying tooth develop, such as discoloration or pain, it is important to see a dentist right away.
Can a dead tooth come back to life?
A dead tooth is defined as a tooth that is no longer receiving blood supply. At this time, science has not discovered a way to restore blood flow to a badly damaged or diseased tooth. Prompt dental care is advised for any indication that a tooth may be dying. Early care may save natural tooth structure but will not “revive” the blood supply that is necessary for the tooth to thrive.
Does a dead tooth smell?
A dead tooth itself does not cause a bad odor in the mouth. However, if a tooth dies and is not promptly treated, it can lead to an abscess. An abscess is an infection that develops either at the tip of the root of the dead tooth or in the gums beside the root. Signs of an abscess include a bad odor, bad taste in the mouth and, in some cases, a pimple-looking sore on the gums.
An abscess needs to be treated as quickly as possible. In addition to pain and swelling, this infection carries the risk of potentially serious health complications.
Can a tooth nerve heal itself?
Teeth nerves do have the ability to heal, yes. However, there are degrees of damage that occur and it is only in certain circumstances that self-healing happens. According to endodontic specialists, once a tooth experiences spontaneous pain or pain with hot foods and beverages, the damage that has occurred is likely irreversible. Experts recommend that patients obtain dental care right away if a tooth develops pain when eating or drinking cold items because, at that time, there is a better opportunity to save the tooth with a filling or crown.
What does a rotten tooth look like?
When a tooth is badly decayed, it loses color. The white enamel will dull and gradually turn gray or black. The smooth surface of the tooth may also turn rough at the edges. Additionally, disease may also have affected the gums around the tooth, making them appear red and swollen.
Does tooth nerve pain go away?
Nerve pain caused by a cavity or injury to a tooth can and will most often go away – eventually. The problem is that pain “goes away” because the nerve has died. The tooth has died. At some point, further injury and further pain will recur. Without blood supply, the tooth becomes brittle and could break. The dead tooth could also be developing an abscess hidden beneath the gums. When the nerve dies and an abscess develops, the pain can actually intensify due to the pressure buildup of the abscess within your jaw bone. Both of these consequences can be serious.
The team at Dental365 is committed to providing prompt care for urgent dental problems such as a dying or dead tooth. To receive treatment that revolves around your comfort and oral health, call 844.365.DENTAL. We have multiple offices in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to serve you.