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Wondering what a dead tooth is? Let’s find out together.
26 Nov. 2019

Wondering what a dead tooth is? Let’s find out together.

You may have heard at least once about dead tooth (non-vital tooth). In case you do not know what it means, by reading this article you will find out which are the symptoms, what causes a dead tooth, which are the solutions to treat this kind of oral health problem and in the end some tips for prevention.

Symptoms of a dead tooth

The main symptom of a dead tooth are changes in color and pain. The level of pain can vary, from almost non-existent to extremely painful. Intensity of pain usually increases when there is an infection. This could result into an abscess, which will produce bad smell, bad taste in the mouth, a pimple of the gums.  Regarding the color, you may notice yellow, grey or black discoloration. This is caused by dying red blood cells.
For a better understanding, you must know that a tooth has three main layers: enamel, dentin and pulp. The pulp is the central part of the tooth and contains blood vessels and nerves. Nerves in teeth help us sense hot or cold and control the nourishment of our teeth. Dead or dying nerves in the pulp can lead to a dead tooth. The nerve usually dies due to a lack of blood flow. When this happens, the root canal and the pulp chamber inside the tooth become a place for bacteria.And this issue must be solved.

What causes a tooth to die?

There are two main causes:
  • Traumatic damage to a tooth:  teeth grinding, sport injuries, accidental falls. In this situation, the blood supply to the tooth may be cut off and the nerve and the other living tissues inside the pulp will die.
  • Tooth decay: poor dental hygiene can lead to bacterial decay reaching the root. The bacteria can attack the pulp, damaging it and eventually causing the tissues to die. This can cause intense pain.


In case you believe you may have a dead tooth, do not hesitate to contact a professional. He will diagnose and establish a treatment plan for you: tooth extraction or a root canal (which implies a crown).

  • Tooth extraction is a simple procedure that is relatively cheap and painless. It is recommended only when the dentist is unable to repair the tooth. The missing tooth may be replaced with an implant or a bridge.
  • Root canal – during this procedure, your dentist will remove the decaying portion of pulp and clean out the infection. The area is then cleaned and sealed to try and prevent further infection. Your original tooth is kept, but you will need a crown on it. Root canals are more expensive than extractions.


  • Good oral hygiene: brush twice a day and floss, especially before going to bed;
  • Wear a mouthguard when playing sports that may cause trauma to your teeth. Also wear a nightguard if you are a grinder.
  • Do not chew on ice or open anything with your teeth;
  • See your dentist at least two times a year, for regular check-ups;
  • Healthy diet. Avoid sugary foods or dinks which can increase the risk for tooth decay;
  • Drink water, especially after eating. Water wash away bacteria from your teeth if you can’t brush them.

As a conclusion, each of us can experience a dead tooth. In case you have the symptoms of a dead tooth, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Arhiri. After a check-up, you will decide together what is the best solution for you and your teeth.References: