Have you ever seen someone smile and notice one tooth is noticeably darker? This is likely because they have a ‘dead tooth.’
A ‘dead tooth’ describes a tooth with a nerve that has died. This interior nerve helps your tooth detect hot, cold or discomfort. When a tooth contains a dead nerve, this means it holds dead tissue, which can be a haven for bacteria. This bacteria can eventually lead to infection, causing numerous problems.
Dead teeth can be the result of a severe blow to a tooth that cuts off an adequate supply of blood to the nerve. As the nerve dies, some teeth will be painful (a condition known as pulpitis). However, a dead nerve can also occur without any an individual feeling any discomfort.
Another cause of a dead tooth is bacteria from tooth decay. This bacteria can create inflammation to the nerve that becomes painful. Untreated, the bacteria can lead to an infection of the nerve that causes it to die. Once begun, this process cannot be undone.
A tooth can also die from too much wear, such as clenching or grinding during sleep. These actions can cause the blood vessels in the root to become too compacted. When this blood supply is reduced on a frequent basis, the nerve will eventually die.
Once a tooth contains a dead nerve, essentially, the interior begins to rot. Because the tooth no longer has a blood supply, its immune system is also gone and infection sets in. This infection will build until it begins to seep out of the tooth root. Additionally, the bone around the tooth root can become infected and lead to an abscess.
Eventually, a dead tooth will begin to darken. This is caused when the nerve’s blood vessels break down and red blood cells leak out.
There are several ways to treat a dead tooth. Ideally, you can save the tooth with a root canal procedure. Root canal treatment should be performed soon after the nerve has died and before the tooth becomes darker.
Whitening a dead tooth is minimally helpful. Although our Zoom II whitening system can lighten the degree of darkness on a dead tooth, the resulting shade may not be an exact match to neighboring other teeth.
Another method is to place a crown or veneer on the tooth to hide the dark shade. Or, you can opt for removal. Removing a tooth can create an entirely new set of challenges and should be considered as a last resort.
It is advised that you act immediately when you feel a tooth has been damaged. Tooth pain or throbbing is not normal and should be examined at your earliest convenience. Tending to a dead tooth before it darkens can save you much in treatment time and expense.
To learn more, call toll free 1-866-9-Smiles for a free consultation. Once the stage of your dead tooth is established, we can discuss treatment options.