Not only can a dead tooth be ugly and painful, but it puts you at risk for severe infection, abscess, and tooth loss. Therefore, it is crucial to know the symptoms of a dead tooth and understand when to seek treatment.
What is a Dead Tooth?
Like any other body part, when your tooth pulp loses its blood supply, it eventually dies. When the pulp in your tooth dies, your tooth becomes a non-vital tooth, which we commonly call a dead tooth.
Symptoms of a dead tooth
It’s not always easy to recognize a dead tooth just by looking at it. Only an oral professional will be able to diagnose it, so regular trips to the dental office are essential.
However, there are two main symptoms of a dead tooth that can help with self-diagnosis:
A dead or dying tooth can lead to a varying pain level, from almost non-existent to excruciating. The dying nerve or infection usually elevates the pain.
Some people wonder why they experience pain and discomfort if the nerve is dead. However, the pain isn’t coming from inside the tooth but from extremely sensitive nerve endings around the outside of the tooth.
Bacteria and dead nerve remnants build up in the pulp cavity inside the tooth and put pressure on the periodontal membrane, causing extreme pain.
If there’s an infection, it may turn into an abscess and produce other symptoms, such as:
- bad smell
- bad taste
- a pimple on the gums
Change in color
If the tooth is dead, in most cases, it will get darker in color, and you may notice a gray, yellow, or black discoloration.
The discoloration usually occurs because the red blood cells are dying, having the same effect as bruising.
The change in color will usually happen if a dead tooth goes untreated and will increase over time.
Treating a Dead Tooth
A dead tooth is commonly treated with a root canal. During a root canal, your endodontist drills a hole in the top of your tooth and clears out the dead material from the pulp chamber and roots. The canals in your tooth roots are then filled with a rubber-like material to seal against bacteria and future infection.
If your dead tooth cannot be saved, or if for other reasons you and your endodontist choose not to go with the root canal, he or she will likely recommend a dead tooth extraction. This void space can then be replaced with a partial denture, implant, or bridge.
Contact your dentist or oral surgeon immediately if you sustain an injury to your teeth, or if you suspect your tooth is decayed.