You may not think of teeth as living things, but viable and healthy teeth are alive. You see, the inside of a tooth contains nerves, blood vessels and soft pulp. When the tissues and nerves inside a tooth are damaged and blood supply to the tooth is lost, that’s the time it becomes a dying tooth. 

What Causes A Tooth to Die?

There are several causes that lead to a “tooth death,” but the two leading ones are injury and tooth decay.

1. Tooth Decay – The outermost part of the tooth is the enamel. This protects the dentin and sensitive tissues inside. Poor dental hygiene can lead to enamel erosion. 

When the enamel is eroded, the tooth becomes more susceptible to decay. If left untreated, this can result in cavities that grow and penetrate the tooth, which can then affect the nerve fibers inside. 

2. Injury – Trauma to the tooth can cause it to die. Any number of accidents, such as a sports-related one or falling and hitting your mouth can result in damage to your tooth and lead to its resulting death.

Signs to Watch Out For

It can be a little hard to identify a dying tooth during the early stages without going to your dentist, but here are some signs you should watch out for. 

1. Pain – Some won’t feel pain, some will feel it for a few days then nothing again, but there are also others who will experience mild to intense pain when the nerves are irreversibly affected. 

2. Discoloration – A tooth that’s dying may rapidly change color to one that is markedly different from its neighboring teeth. Tooth decay may cause a tooth to appear yellow, light brown, gray, or black, while a damaged tooth may appear pinkish or even grayish-black.

3. Other Signs –  A dying or dead tooth is a haven for bacteria. This can often leave a bad taste in your mouth or cause swelling, abscess, or bad breath.

What Can Be Done

If you’ve experienced trauma to your mouth or suspect that you may have a dying tooth, it’s best to visit your dentist right away. Once your dentist has identified the problem to be a dying tooth, there are two treatment options available.

1. Root Canal Treatment – If your tooth is mostly intact, a root canal can help you keep the external tooth structure.  This procedure involves removing infected or dead pulp from your tooth, cleaning the tooth thoroughly, filling the canals, and then sealing it. A crown may be fitted over your tooth to support it.

2. Tooth Extraction – If the tooth is too damaged, the only option is to extract it. You can discuss with your dentist later whether an implant, bridge or other option as a replacement for the tooth is the best course for you.

Prevention is Better

Although you can’t prevent accidents from happening, you can reduce the risk. If you engage in very physical sports, the use of a mouthguard can’t be emphasized enough. A twice a year visit to the dentist and good oral habits will also keep your teeth healthy and disease-free for a long time. 

The sooner you get diagnosed, the better chances you have of keeping your tooth.

Don’t hesitate. If you feel that you may have a tooth that’s dying, a visit to the dentist can prevent the problem from escalating. Give us a call today at 541-708-6288 and book an appointment!

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