When there is no longer any blood flow to a tooth, it is said to be ‘dead.’ This is also known as a ‘non-vital tooth.
A dead tooth can be caused by both tooth decay and an injury. In this article, we will look at the most common symptoms, as well as how to treat and prevent a dead tooth.
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Teeth have a blood supply, so healthy teeth are very alive. The pulp extends from the crown to the roots of the tooth. When the nerves in the pulp of the tooth are injured or decayed, they stop supplying blood to the tooth. The nerve dies, and the tooth is classified as “non-vital” by your dentist.
It is not always easy to identify a dead tooth just by looking at it. Only a dental professional will be able to diagnose it, which is why regular trips to the dentist are important.
There are, however, two main symptoms of a dead tooth that can help with self-diagnosis:
A dead or dying tooth can cause pain ranging from almost non-existent to extremely painful. An increase in pain is usually caused by a dying nerve or an infection.
Some people are perplexed as to why they are in pain if the nerve is dead. The pain, however, is caused by extremely sensitive nerve endings around the outside of the tooth, known as the periodontal membrane.
Bacteria and dead nerve remnants, or pus, accumulate in the pulp cavity inside the tooth, putting pressure on the periodontal membrane and causing excruciating pain.
If there is an infection, it may develop into an abscess and cause other symptoms such as:
If the tooth is dead, it will often get darker in color, and a person may notice a yellow, gray, or black discoloration.
A change in color usually occurs because the red blood cells are dying. This is a very similar effect to bruising.
The discoloration will usually happen if a dead tooth goes untreated and will increase over time.
One possible cause is trauma or injury. For instance, falling and hitting your mouth, or being hit in the mouth. A tooth can die suddenly or gradually over months or years. Any dental injury should always be investigated by your dentist. Untreated tooth decay can destroy the nerves in the teeth as well as the surrounding bone. Decay will eat away at the enamel until it reaches the pulp. The infection cuts off the pulp’s blood supply. In most cases, the symptoms are excruciating pain.
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