If the tooth is the hardest part of the body, why is there such a thing as a dead tooth?
There are 32 adult or permanent teeth in your mouth, vital in the process of digestion, speech and overall appearance. The tooth structure made of the roots, hidden under the gums embedded in bone and the visible part which is the crown. The main components are soft and hard tissue. Zooming in, the root is the foundation as it is set in the gums. It facilitates the blood and nerve supply to reach the tooth so it can function. The crown does the work of breaking down the food and start the process of digestion. It is covered by enamel, the hard tissue and the root is covered by cementum. The next layer below is the dentin, which makes up the largest part of the tooth. And at the center of the tooth is the pulp or pulp chamber that houses the nerve, blood vessel and connective tissue vital for tooth health. Therefore, the teeth are alive.
Dead teeth mean that the pulp of a tooth blood vessel does not have blood flow and the nerve in the pulp is dead. After a while, it will fall off if not addressed. Another name referring to this condition is a non-vital, necrotic tooth and pulpless tooth. At its early stage, it is not easy to detect until you feel the pain and of course other physical manifestations. Your dentist can confirm this condition after some laboratory tests such as dental pulp testing or tooth x-ray.
Causes of a Dead Tooth
There are two main causes of a dead tooth. You can see a cavity on the crown but on your own, it’s not easy to identify why a tooth loses its vitality.
Cavities or carries occurring because of poor oral hygiene, too much sugar, excessive consumption of acidic food or drinks. You can see a tooth decay forming on the crown your teeth, and if left untreated over time will work its way into the pulp chamber. Once it gets to penetrate the pulp, bacteria get to access the living tissues responsible for the blood flow. The body will react to this invasion manifesting in an inflamed tooth cavity. Eventually, the blood ceases its supply to the nerves resulting in a dead tooth. Home and professional tooth care are important in ensuring that you protect yours from the threat of cavities.
Dental trauma is an injury impacting the crown, roots, gums and its surrounding soft tissues. Often because of accidents from motor vehicles, contact sports, fistfights, and falls. Since this is a traumatic experience that results in certain damage and intense pain, one will surely seek emergency care. An intense impact of the trauma will not only break a tooth but will cut the vessels leading to its death. In addition, perennial teeth grinding, gnashing and clenching over time will also cause dental trauma leading to a dead tooth.
Only your dentist can diagnose a dead tooth. However, there are two known symptoms of a dead tooth, pain and tooth discoloration. The pain manifestation varies from severe to none because you may either have a dead tooth or a dying tooth.
The initial indication that a tooth is dying is the discomfort around the tooth. The pain you will experience ranges from a bearable pain to excruciating pain in nature. As the infection progresses, there will be swelling inside the tooth injecting pressure on the nerves at the base of a tooth.
Another obvious indication that a tooth is dead or dying is its color differs from the rest of the tooth. The reason for this discoloration is insufficient for the non-existent blood supply to a tooth. Dead teeth color may vary from yellow, grey to a much darker color of black.
As the infection progress, above known symptoms, maybe accompanied by:
- Periodontal membrane swelling
- Bad taste
- Bad smell from a dead tooth
- Swelling of the gums due to pus accumulation or abscess
Treatment for a Dead Tooth
When you suspect having a dying or a dead tooth, you should immediately see a dentist for a diagnosis and treatment. Early treatment is vital in saving a dead tooth. Your dentist will request for an x-ray so he or she can view the coverage of the damage and determine its treatment. There are only two solutions available in saving a dead tooth:
Removing a dead tooth may be the only option if you seek help at its progressed stage of infection. Tooth extraction is a simple and cheap procedure. To prevent the other tooth from eventual movements and to resume its functions, it is advised to have a dental bridge, a dental implant or dentures in replacement. Even if a tooth extraction is cheap, replacement alternatives can be costly.
Root canal therapy is one option most dentists will recommend when you seek help early on. This is an expensive option compared to tooth extraction. It is a procedure used to save a dead tooth by cleaning and sealing the inside of an infected tooth. Even a tooth is dead but still intact, it can still serve its purpose. There is a possibility that your dentist will add a dental crown to support a brittle tooth. The crown has a tendency that it will break due to its brittle condition. The root canal therapy saves a dead tooth.
Teeth are alive. Good oral hygiene is basic to a healthy tooth. Consistent daily care and visit to your dentist will save your teeth from dying. As no one wants to have a tooth removed, prevention is always cheaper than any of the options discussed once you have a dead tooth. Maybe it is not too late, and even if it is, go ahead and save a dead tooth!