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Dead Tooth – Diagnoses & Treatment

Excerpt: On the outside teeth don’t appear to be anything more than enamel, but every tooth has an interior with living tissue inside it...
Table of Contents

How Does A Tooth Die?

Tooth die because the blood vessels of the tooth stopped delivering blood to the parts of the tooth that need it. This can happen for a variety of reasons, it can be caused by injury or trauma, an infection, or tooth decay. 

Dead Tooth – Fast Facts

  • The outside of the tooth (the enamel) protects the living structures which are inside the tooth.
  • Your dead tooth may change color from time-to-time which can include; grey, yellow, or even black.
  • Once a tooth starts to die, the dentist will do their best to prevent the spread of further damage. 
Dead Tooth - Diagnoses & Treatment - 1 - Smiles Dental Group

Dead Tooth Diagnoses

If you have a dead tooth, you may notice a few different signs that will occur. One of the most obvious signs is discoloration of the tooth. All your teeth may be discolored to a certain degree depending on your dental hygiene habits. A dead tooth will most likely be discolored, even more, they often appear as solid yellow, grey, or even black. If you’re are unsure if the tooth is dead based on its color, a dead tooth will get worse over time and the color will change, depending on how late you noticed the dying tooth.


Other symptoms that are not so obvious to a dead tooth include:


  • Pain – You may or may not feel pain.
  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Swelling around your gum line
Visiting the dentist is the best way to diagnose a dead tooth, they will have a better understanding of the symptoms and can also take x-rays of the mouth to see inside the tooth.

How do you treat a dead tooth?

A tooth can’t be brought back to life, however, if a tooth dies it is incredibly important to treat the dead tooth to prevent the spread of infection. Typically there are two ways to treat a dead tooth:
  • Root canal therapy – The inner pulp and root system is cleared out of the tooth and is usually sealed with a crown.
  • Dental extraction – The entire tooth is removed.
Even though there is no way to regain the full health of the dead tooth, preventing the spread of infection is critical to maintaining the health of the remaining oral structures.

Dead tooth pain management (DIY)

If you can’t get the treatment immediately, your tooth might because you pain or discomfort, here are some DIY ways you can mitigate the pain:
  • Avoid extreme temperature food or drink – Try to have only lukewarm, slightly warm, or cold food or drink.
  • OTC pain medication – If you’re able, you can take the recommended doses of drugs like Advil or Tylenol.
  • Avoid hard, sticky foods  – These will further damage the tooth, which is already in a weakened state.
Dead Tooth - Diagnoses & Treatment - 3 - Smiles Dental Group

How do you prevent a dead tooth?

Sometimes even outstanding hygiene practices can’t prevent a dead tooth, since you could get one from physical trauma, however, here are some ways to help ensure your teeth remain alive:

  • Good oral hygiene – Brush, floss, and use mouthwash twice a day.
  • Get regular checkups – Your dentist can spot an infection early.
  • Wear a mouth guard – Physical injury can be a huge threat to oral health.
  • Eat a balanced diet – Too much sugar, acidic foods can promote decay.
  • Drink water – Keeps you hydrated, helps your saliva production.
  • Chew sugarless gum – The gum can help re-mineralize your teeth, and remove food particles. 

Outlook for a dead tooth

If your tooth dies and it is not removed or given root canal therapy, other teeth, and oral structures can potentially be affected by the same issue that caused the first tooth to die. You can also get periodontitis if the infection is allowed to reach the gum line and jaw bone. It is imperative to mitigate any more damage after it dies.

Dead tooth - Frequently Asked Questions

The dentist will most likely recommend either a dental extraction, or root canal. Extractions are cheaper, but a root canal will keep the original tooth structure.

Go for regular dental checkups, two to three times a year. 

If the cause is from an underlying medical issue, or the damage is minimal and detected early enough, then it may be possible.

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