Here you’ll learn the causes, signs & of treating dead teeth, including tips on how to avoid them. Plus, how to recognize dead teeth – because they don’t always hurt.
Sometimes a tooth may die. Because this process is slow, many patients don’t consciously notice it.
However, the sooner you do something about a dead tooth, the greater the chances of being able to treat it – and avoid costly subsequent damage.
I have studied the subject extensively and will explain below how to detect a dead tooth, what treatments are available, and what diseases can result from dead teeth.
You can use the following table of contents to go directly to the topic you are most interested in:
As you can see, there are many aspects to consider when dealing with a dead tooth.
It’s best to read through these tips and information carefully so you can respond to any symptoms of a dead tooth.
When do you call a dead tooth?
A dead tooth is when it is no longer supplied with vital nutrients.
- Often, for example, tooth decay ensures that the nerves and blood vessels are affected so much that the tooth dies.
- Once the nerves and vessels have died there is virtually nothing that can be done here to revive the tooth.
The interior of the tooth is crisscrossed by numerous nerves & vessels – through which „living“ teeth are supplied.
As with all oral diseases, dead teeth can be better treated if the disease is detected early.
Tooth cavities, gingivitis & bad teeth should always be treated as early as possible to avoid a tooth dying.
A tooth dies – step by step
Most of the time, the death of a tooth goes like this:
- First, deposits form between the gum and the tooth
- The bacteria in the deposits attack the tooth enamel
- Chemical processes in the deposits cause tooth decay
- Caries cause holes to form in the teeth
- Inflammation of the gums worsens the disease
- Over time, the holes reach the blood vessels and nerves
- The inflammation and decay cause the tooth to die
What happens when a tooth is dead?
Many people who are not attentive to their dental care often do not even notice when a tooth is dead.
- Because a dead tooth does not fall out immediately, nor is the process always painful.
- Because the dentin, or the inside of the tooth, is no longer supplied with nutrients, the tooth slowly becomes brittle.
Often a dead tooth also discolors and takes on a grayish unhealthy color. You can read more about the symptoms below. Before that, I’d like to briefly discuss the reasons for the die-off.
Dying teeth are not always accompanied by pain – which is why they go undetected for a long time.
The causes of dead teeth
There are different causes that can lead to a dead tooth
Most commonly, inadequate oral hygiene and lack of preventive care are the triggers that ultimately lead to dead teeth. But there are also other causes such as
- Inflammation or
- dental treatments or
- concrete injuries
In the following, I go into a little more detail about these points.
How inflammation can kill a tooth
When bacteria in dental plaque & in tartar cause the gums to become inflamed, this focus of inflammation can spread to the roots of the teeth
The bacteria eventually attack the tooth nerve and kill it.
Severe inflammation or a swollen cheek is usually associated with pain, which is why it is possible to detect and treat this form of death more quickly.
How injuries can promote a dead tooth
Accidents or unstable tooth structure can cause parts of a tooth to break off
Especially during sports, tooth fractures & similar injuries often occur.
- This can expose the inside of the tooth, causing the nerve and root to be attacked. If this damage is too severe, the tooth may also die.
- Since after an accident often no further attention is paid to how badly the teeth are affected, you should always have a preventive examination if in doubt.
Tooth fractures can be painless, making the process of death difficult to notice.
What symptoms indicate a dead tooth
Very often, when the root of the tooth is inflamed, there is severe pain & temperature sensitive teeth.
If they stop abruptly, it’s no cause for celebration, but should alert you to see a dentist immediately.
More common than a sudden miracle cure of your toothache is the death of the nerve (the cause of the pain subsiding).
Dead teeth discolor
If a tooth is dead, it will slowly begin to discolor.
- The normally white and slightly shimmering tooth dentin becomes grayish and loses its natural luster.
- So if you see a tooth changing color, you should also make an appointment with your dentist quickly.
Tip: In this article you will find detailed information about tooth discoloration.
Can you bleach dead teeth?
Sometimes patients come up with the idea of treating dead teeth with a bleaching agent in the hope that they will turn white again.
However, since the tooth substance is no longer supplied, such hopes are unfounded without professional treatment. Bleaching strips & Co. help exclusively with healthy teeth.
Only a dentist can help you improve the appearance of a dead tooth.
Tip: Learn more about the different methods of teeth whitening here.
Can a dead tooth be saved?
Since the death of a tooth is a slowly developing process it depends entirely on when it is discovered.
Sometimes the dentist detects inflammation that causes teeth to die early and can still stop the process in time.
The dentist cannot always save the tooth – but even a dead tooth can still „live on in the mouth“.
The death of the tooth is not the end
Even though death sounds like a final solution, a dead tooth should always be treated
- If this is not done, the inflammation can continue to progress and cause serious problems. Which these are I explain to you further down in the text.
- To preserve dead teeth are treated so that the teeth do not fall out. In addition, the cause of the disease is discovered and treated.
This prevents later spread to other teeth or the gums (because gum disease & periodontal disease also provide a loss of biting teeth if left untreated).
How to treat a dead tooth
If you go to the dentist with a suspected dead tooth, the dentist will first perform a vitality check
- In this process, your teeth will first be tapped, and then they will often undergo a cold test as well.
- If your tooth responds to the pressure or cold, it is a sign that your tooth is still alive.
If this is the case, the dentist will begin to check the tooth for other damage (and treat it if necessary).
If it turns out that a tooth has died, the dentist will inform you of what other treatment options are available.
The further procedure
After diagnosis, the following follow-up treatments may occur:
- Inflammations are treated
- caries are removed
- Tooth roots are treated
Under no circumstances is it possible to treat a dead tooth yourself. This should always be done by a professional.
The tooth root treatment
The root canal treatment is to the dentist what a great white shark is to the sea: the greatest possible terror to many people.
- But don’t be alarmed, root canals are not as bad as they say.
- Since the root canal treatment is performed under anesthesia, it is rather unpleasant than painful.
Often drilling at the dentist is much more uncomfortable. During root canal treatment, the root canals are first thoroughly cleaned and then sealed.
This is how the dentist ensures that no more inflammation can occur here.
Summarized: Root canal treatment step by step
- First, the dentist drills a large hole in the tooth
- Once the inside of the tooth is exposed, the root canals are searched
- The root canals are cleaned with special tools
- Special medications have all bacteria killed
- The completely clean root canals are filled and sealed
- Eventually, further aesthetic treatments are required
After the root canal treatment
After the successful completion of the root canal treatment, further treatment steps may be necessary to best preserve the dead tooth
Tip: Read more about root canal treatment here.
Possible follow-up treatments include:
- Whitening of discoloration
- Insertion of a crown
- Insertion of a post tooth
Statistics show that well-treated dead teeth persist after ten years in 75 to 90 percent of patients
Veneers with veneers
And saving your own tooth is always better (and cheaper!) than dentures.
In dentistry, this is called minimally invasive treatment – the doctor strives to preserve as much of the natural tooth structure as possible.
When a dead tooth is extracted
If the dentist determines that the material of the tooth has been damaged to the point that it cannot be saved, the dead tooth will be extracted.
- Because the nerve is dead, pulling a dead tooth is usually easier and less painful than pulling a live tooth.
- Once the dead tooth has been extracted, you should seek advice on how best to close the resulting gap.
What measures are there afterwards?
Implants, bridges or dentures are common options.
What is best for you will be decided by your dentist in light of the surrounding teeth. In this case, also talk to your dentist right away about the costs involved.
Costs of treatment of a dead tooth
In Germany, dentists follow the health insurance companies’ guidelines for covering the costs of treatment.
The more difficult the procedure and the less “visible” the tooth, the less the insurance companies are willing to cover all costs.
Differences between different tooth roots
Since not all teeth have the same roots, the treatment is also very different.
- Front teeth have only one root canal, while molars can have up to three.
- Depending on how these are located and how straight these canals run, this makes root canal treatment easier or more difficult.
Fact: It is often easier and much less expensive to extract a molar than to perform a root canal.
Tip: Ask your dentist for detailed advice and, if necessary, a cost estimate. It’s worth investing in your teeth!
What secondary diseases can dead teeth cause?
A serious inflammation in the oral cavity can provoke many other diseases. Among them:
- rheumatic diseases
- functional complaints of joints and muscles
- Migraines and headaches
- Eczema and skin diseases
- Inflammation of individual organs
- Weakness of concentration and chronic fatigue
Through the bloodstream, the toxins of dental inflammation spread throughout the body.
Depending on the constitution of the patient, this can result in simple to serious sequelae.
As you can see, it is absolutely necessary to have a dead tooth professionally treated.
The sooner you address this problem the better for you and your health. Don’t be afraid of the dentist.
Frequently asked questions about dead tooth:
Since we keep receiving questions about dead tooth we would like to answer them here.
Question:Can a dead tooth cause pain?
Answer: Often it is the inflammation that causes pain, not directly the dead tooth. Depending on the cause of the condition, the inflammation can cause the entire cheek to swell and hurt terribly
Question: Can a dead tooth break off?
Answer:If a dead tooth is not treated professionally, the tooth material will become more and more brittle over time due to the lack of nutrient supply. Eventually, dead teeth can then break off easily.
Question:Is it true that a dead tooth gives off cadaveric poison?
Answer: The word ptomaine sounds very dramatic, but in fact, the toxins that tooth inflammation can release into the bloodstream are harmful to the body in many cases.
Avoid dead teeth – The most effective measure
I have already mentioned it a few times in the text, but to conclude, here is a quick reminder:
- Daily dental care represents the best (and by far the least expensive) way to prevent dead teeth.
- Don’t even let that lead to tooth damage & gingivitis, but focus on prevention.
Browse this page & learn how you can noticeably improve your dental care with just a few steps.
The right dental care products & the right technique
Perhaps the easiest option is electric toothbrushes
- If you have mastered the proper brushing technique, then a regular brush will also do.
- From experience, however, this is often not the case – and this is exactly where electric devices help.
They not only take a lot of work from them, but partly compensate for faulty technology. So you will feel an improvement with any type – whether Oral-B toothbrush, sonic toothbrush or real ultrasonic toothbrush.
Tip: Read more about the differences & best models here: electric toothbrushes in test.