You can save a dead tooth with a root canal procedure, which involves removing the pulp inside the dead tooth, cleaning the infection, and sealing the root. A permanent filling is then placed in the small opening created for the extraction.
You need to treat a dead tooth immediately to avoid negative effects on the jaw, gums, or other teeth.
What is a dead tooth?
A dead tooth refers to a tooth with damaged pulp that results in cut-off blood supply.
A tooth has three parts: enamel, dentin, and pulp. The pulp has nerves and blood vessels and extends from the upper, visible part of the tooth to the tip of the root. Severe trauma to the tooth or tooth decay can damage the pulp by cutting off the blood supply, starving the nerve and killing the pulp.
What causes a tooth to die?
A tooth can die due to severe trauma or injury. For example, getting hit with a soccer ball can burst the blood vessels, obstructing blood flow to the tooth and leading to death of the nerve.
Poor oral hygiene and dental decay can also cause dead teeth. Cavities can form on the enamel and, if left untreated, enter the pulp. Once the cavity reaches the pulp, it can allow bacteria to enter, which can cut off blood supply. Subsequently, the nerve dies, killing the pulp.
What are signs of a dead tooth?
Healthy teeth are usually white or a shade of white, although the color can vary based on your diet and oral hygiene. Foods and products that may cause staining include:
- Red wine
- Cigarette smoke
However, a dying tooth may appear yellow, light brown, gray, or even black. You may have a dead tooth if you notice the following symptoms:
How can you prevent your tooth from dying?
Maintaining good oral hygiene is the first step toward preventing dead teeth:
- Brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes and floss at least once a day.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen and protect teeth.
- Avoid eating sugary foods or carbonated beverages.
- Drink water after eating. Water can wash down bacteria from your teeth between brushings.
- Visit your dentist every 6 months for check-ups or more often if needed.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Oral Health Foundation. Caring for my teeth and gums. https://www.dentalhealth.org/caring-for-my-teeth
American Association of Endodontists. Saving Your Natural Tooth. https://www.aae.org/patients/root-canal-treatment/saving-natural-tooth/
Mayo Clinic. Slide show: Root canal treatment. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tooth-abscess/multimedia/root-canal/sls-20076717?s=2
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