When a tooth stops receiving blood from the body, it is referred to as a “non-vital tooth” but is more often called a “dead tooth.” The tooth now has decaying or dying nerves in the pulp, which previously was how the tooth stayed healthy. While a dental professional is the only person qualified to diagnose a dead tooth properly, there are a few symptoms that can tip you off: change in color of the tooth (usually darker and discolored) and pain from the sensitive nerve endings on the outside of the tooth.
The level of pain experienced will significantly increase if an infection is present.
Similarly to a bruise, the change in color comes from the red blood cells dying. This can slowly darken further and further… even going from yellow to grey to black.
Cavities left untreated that decay the tooth further and allows bacteria to enter the tooth, which causes the nerve to die.
Trauma to the tooth – physical trauma, like a sports accident, can cause the blood cells to burst and cut off nutrient supplies to the tooth.
The earlier, the better is the mantra for treating a dead tooth. If caught early, a root canal treatment can be enough to save the tooth and keep it from dying further. The other option is to extract the tooth and then replace it with a dental implant and crown.
To avoid having to deal with a dead tooth, follow a consistent dental health routine. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, avoid sugary beverages and snacks, and visit your dentist regularly.