Do you know that a dead tooth refers to a tooth that has no longer blood flow to it?

A dead tooth is also known as a “Non-Vital Tooth”, and both tooth decay and an injury can cause a dead tooth.

Your tooth comprises three layers, enamel, dentin, and pulp.

The pulp contains the blood vessels and the nerves. dead or dying nerves in the pulp of your tooth leading to a dead tooth.

Moreover, a dead tooth will also no longer have any blood that flows to it.

A dead nerve in your tooth is also referred to as a necrotic pulp or a pulpless tooth.

Once this happens, your tooth will eventually fall out by itself.

However, it can be dangerous to wait for this is happening, as the tooth can become infected and can affect the jaw and other teeth.

Signs of a Dead Tooth

A dead tooth is a tooth that no longer receives a fresh supply of blood.

For many people, the discoloration can be the first sign of a dying tooth, and you may also experience pain in the tooth or gums.

Moreover, your healthy teeth tend to be in a shade of white, though the color can also vary depending on your diet and oral hygiene.

For instance, if you regularly consume foods that cause staining, like coffee, blueberries, red wine, or smoke, your smile may appear off-white or light yellow.

However, this discoloration tends to be uniform.

In case you have a tooth that is discolored because it is dying, it will appear in a different color than the rest of your teeth.

Furthermore, a dying tooth may appear yellow, light brown, gray, or even black.

It may also look almost as if the tooth is bruised.

dead tooth symptoms

The discoloration will increase over time as your tooth continues to decay and the nerve dies.

Pain is another possible symptom. In some cases, you might not even feel pain.

While in others, there may be mild pain and some may feel intense pain.

This pain often occurs due to the dying nerve and can also be due to an infection.

Other signs of an infection are:

Therefore, if you experience any symptoms of a dying tooth, it is important to seek medical advice or see your dentist right away.

Causes of a Dead Tooth

Trauma or injury to your tooth is one possible cause of a dead tooth.

For instance, if you get hit in the mouth with a soccer ball, or trip and hit your mouth against something, it can cause your tooth to die.

A tooth can quickly die, in a matter of days, or slowly over several months or even years.

Moreover, a tooth can also diet as a result of poor oral and dental hygiene.

That can often lead to cavities. When you do not get treatment for them, it can slowly destroy your mouth.

Cavities will begin on the enamel, which is the outermost protective layer of your tooth.

dead tooth 1

When you do not get treatment for them, they can slowly eat away at the enamel and eventually reach the pulp, the innermost part of your tooth.

Thus, this causes the pulp to develop an infection, which cuts off blood from the pulp.

And eventually, it causes your tooth to die.

It is important to note that you are most likely to experience intense pain once the decay reaches the pulp of your tooth.

Diagnosing a Dead Tooth

In order to diagnose a dead tooth, your dentist will conduct a dental exam and ask about the symptoms you may be experiencing.

Moreover, with the help of Dental X-rays, they can identify a dead tooth during a routine dental appointment.

Additionally, your dentist may also be able to identify them because of the pain or the concerns over discolorations.

dead tooth diagnosis

It is important that you should always see your dentist following any tooth injury or if you have any signs of a dying tooth.

In such a way, your dentist can begin the treatment as soon as possible.

However, if you do not get timely treatment and leave it untreated, it can lose to complications.

These complications include infection spreading to other teeth, around the gum line, and even affect your jawbone.

Treatment Options

It is important to get treatment for a dying tooth, or a dead tooth as soon as possible.

This is because, if you do not get treatment, the bacteria from a dead tooth can spread and lead to tooth loss of additional teeth.

Moreover, it can potentially affect your jawbone and gums.

Your dentist may treat a dead or dying tooth with a procedure: Root Canal.

However, they may also choose to remove the entire tooth.

Let’s discuss it as follows:

Root Canal

With the help of a root canal, your dentist may be able to keep the tooth intact.

During this procedure, your dentist will make an opening into the tooth and then use small instruments to remove the pulp and clean out the infection.

Once they remove all of the infection, they will fill and seal the roots and place a permanent filling in the small opening.

In most cases, you may need a crown following a root canal.

This can be a good option, in case there is damage to the enamel or if your tooth has a large filling.

Moreover, with time, a tooth that had a root canal can also become brittle.

This is why many doctors recommend getting a crow for the posterior tooth due to conditions like grinding and chewing.

A crown is a covering that your dentist will specifically mold to your tooth.

root canal

Furthermore, they will file away part of your existing tooth and then permanently fit the crown over your tooth.

They can make a crown to match the color of your surrounding teeth so that it is not noticeable.

However, if your doctor determines that you do not need a crown, you may be able to use tooth bleaching to treat any discoloration of the affected tooth.

It is important to note that it is often visible on anterior teeth only.

Alternatively, your dentist may recommend covering the tooth with a porcelain veneer.

Make sure to talk to your doctor about different aesthetic treatments available.

Removal or Extraction of the Dead Tooth

In case there is severe damage to your tooth, and your dentist is unable to restore it, they may recommend completely removing the dead tooth.

During the procedure, your dentist will completely remove the tooth.

Moreover, following the process of extraction, you can get a replacement with an implant, denture, or bridge.

It is important to seek medical advice or talk to your dentist about your options.


Some questions you can ask your dentist are:

  • will you need to replace the replacement over time?
  • the cost of the procedure and whether your dental insurance covers it or no
  • recovery time and what it will be like
  • do you need to do anything in order to take care of the replacement tooth.

Pain Management

In case your tooth is causing a lot of pain, you can try something that at home. These can help while you wait for the treatment.

These are:

Avoiding Hot Beverages: This is because hot beverages can increase inflammation, and in turn make the pain worse.

Over-the-Counter Medications: Taking OTC anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, i.e. Advil or Motrin can help relieve the pain.

otc pain relievers

Avoid Hard Things: It is important to avoid eating hard things as the force of biting down on them may aggravate the damaged nerves more.

Moreover, it is important to see your dentist right away.

However, treatment should not be used in place of professional medical treatment.

Instead, make sure you use the above methods only while you are waiting for your appointment.

Tips for Prevention

One of the important things to note is that it is not always possible to prevent a dead tooth.

However, there are some things you can try to reduce your risk of developing them:

Oral Hygiene: Make sure to practice good oral hygiene.

Brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day.

Dental Appointments: Make sure to see your dentist every 6 months, as preventative dental care can help to stop the problems before they even start.

mouth guard

Moreover, your dentist can also help identify the early signs of tooth decay and treat them before the decay reaches your pulp.

Mouth Guard: Wearing a mouthguard can help.

If you practice contact sports like hockey or boxing, always wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth from trauma.

Healthy Diet: It is important to maintain a healthy diet. Avoid eating a lot of sugary foods which is lead to an increase in risk for tooth decay.

Drink Water: Dring water especially after eating can help wash away bacteria from your teeth between brushings.

Final Thoughts

It is important to see your dentist right away if you suspect you have a dead or dying tooth. With the help of early treatment, you can help prevent complications. However, if you do not get treatment, the infection from the dead tooth can affect the surrounding teeth and structures.