Our teeth are made up of a combination of hard and soft tissue. A tooth has three layers – enamel, dentin and pulp. The pulp contains the blood vessels and nerves. Dead nerves in the pulp can lead to a dead tooth. A dead tooth will also no longer receive any blood flow to it.
A dead nerve in a tooth is sometimes known as a necrotic pulp or a pulpless tooth. Once this happens, the tooth will fall itself over time. However, it can be dangerous for this to occur, the tooth can become infected and cause jaw pain.
Causes of a dead tooth
Dental trauma or injury
Any sharp blow, punch on the face, blunt force to your tooth or even a fall on your front tooth can cause a tooth to die. In physical trauma to the tooth, the blood vessels can burst or the blood supply to the tooth may be cut off. There occurs internal bleeding which may not appear on the outside but still cause the tooth to hurt for days to months. Following which the blood clot that was formed may get dried up and there is no blood supply to the tooth and the nerve and other healthy tissues inside the pulp die.
Initially, the tooth may appear normal with pain. Later on, the tooth may start appearing pink in colour. The blood clot inside gives makes the tooth appear pink in colour. If you are still ignorant about the condition of your tooth, eventually it may start appearing brown to greyish in colour as there is no required blood flowing to the tooth.
Tooth decay begins on the outermost layer of the tooth, but it can eventually cause cavities that penetrate into the deep layers. The major cause of tooth decay is poor dental hygiene. If the cavities are left untreated, tooth decay may destroy a major part of your tooth for which even the dentist will not be able to save it with a simple filling. Therefore getting your cavities treated with a filling at the earliest is the best way to avoid future dental problems.
Accidental fracture of the tooth
An accidental fall on your face may cause the upper front teeth to chip off or even get fractured. Upper front teeth are more susceptible to fracture than the lower teeth. This is because the upper teeth are protruded out while the lower teeth remain protected behind the upper teeth. However, sometimes depending on the fall the lower teeth can also be affected.
A chipped off tooth can be easily repaired with a tooth coloured filling fixing the aesthetics of your smile. But if a major portion of the tooth gets fractured and the tooth starts bleeding that indicates the pulp carrying the blood vessels and nerve tissue are damaged and it needs an immediate visit to the dentist.
If the tooth is intact without a fracture then a root canal may save your tooth. Mild to severe discoloured but dead tooth needs a root canal treatment. During the procedure, the dentist removes the pulp and clean out the infection. Once the infection is removed, your dentist will fill and seal the roots and place a permanent filling in the opening. As the dead tooth is quite brittle the tooth may require a crown to be fitted, which will provide extra support and strength to the tooth. A crown or a cap in simpler terms is very important after a root canal treatment. The cap protects the tooth inside and saves it from getting fractured by the chewing action.
If your tooth is severely damaged involving the fracture of the root which cannot be restored, your dentist will advise you to completely remove the dead tooth. In such a case removing the tooth is always better than waiting or ignoring the condition as the tooth is not going to heal on its own like the other fractures in our body. Before the extraction procedure, the dentist may prescribe you a few medications to get the infection under control after which the tooth is removed. Following the extraction, the dentist replaces the tooth with an implant, denture or bridge.
- Brush your teeth twice every day, preferably with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Inter-cleaning is very important in your routine. Floss your teeth at least once a day.
- Avoid sugary food and beverages
- If a patient plays any contact sport, always wear a mouthguard. The Mouthguard will shield your teeth from getting a dental injury.
- Avoid chewing ice or hard foods.
- Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and treatments.