Everything You Need to Know About a Dead Tooth

dead tooth

Teeth are the first thing people notice when they meet you.

In fact, a recent survey shows that smiling is the best way to make a fantastic first impression. Healthy teeth make for a great smile, allowing you to feel confident.

Taking care of your teeth is essential. Spotting troublesome areas in your teeth and gums can prevent further decay and dental problems down the road.

By noticing what is going on with your teeth, you’ll save time and money. Plus, you’ll prevent pain. Stop any decay or deterioration in its tracks by seeing a dentist regularly.

Sometimes, it’s hard to know exactly what happens during the life a tooth.

Often, you won’t know that a tooth has died. The nerve inside your tooth is like a pencil with lead in it. If the lead was missing, you’d still have the outer shell of the pencil. Your teeth can often look the same even though it has died.

We’ve researched everything there is to know about a dead tooth and have made the ultimate guide to understanding dead teeth.

Appearance of a Dead Tooth

Immediately after a tooth dies, you won’t see much a difference in appearance. It will most likely look like it always has. It will take some time, perhaps even years before it starts showing the physical signs of its death.

The blood vessels in the tooth will start to leak red blood cells. This will cause your tooth to darken substantially. It will appear to be a bruised tooth. The tooth will continue to darken with time.

Unfortunately, this darkening can not be reversed. It will be permanently discolored and have an unsightly appearance compared to the rest of your teeth.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t procedures available to help get your tooth back to a lighter color. However, it can often be difficult to get its natural hue to return.

Just because your tooth may not look like it is in pain, doesn’t mean you won’t feel something.

Pain and Infection

The nerves in your teeth are important.

They alert you as to whether your coffee is hot or cold. They gauge temperature and pressure when you bite into something. When a tooth dies, those nerves shrivel up. They can no longer function.

In terms of pain, you may feel a lot of it — or none at all. Sometimes when the nerve dies completely, you won’t feel a toothache.

However, the pain will rise substantially if there is an infection.

When a tooth dies and isn’t properly cared for, the interior of the tooth can start to rot. Bacteria can thrive and even breed inside a dead tooth.

Since the tooth no longer has a healthy supply of blood flow, there will be no immune system within the tooth to fight infection. If the dead tooth decays to a point where an infection has started, run to your dentist.

Infections can lead to further gum problems and more lost teeth. Root canals and other serious procedures are not pleasant or easy. Plus, they can be expensive.

However, with great dentists around the world, there is no need to fear — treatment is here!


There are really only two options to treat a tooth that has gone the way of the graveyard.

One option is to have the tooth taken out. This creates a variety of issues. If your tooth needs to be taken out completely, you won’t be able to simply put a veneer or even a crown on the shaved down dead tooth.

Ideally, the tooth can be shaved down if it isn’t infected. Then, a veneer or crown can be placed over it.

The other option is to try to rescue the tooth.

This requires a root canal procedure. A root canal is a procedure that will get rid of (and ideally prevent the return of) an infection that has grown within your tooth. The dentist will try to alleviate the tooth from the damaged or inflamed nerves.

With a root canal procedure, the dentist will clean out all the little spaces within the tooth where the nerve has been living and is now decaying. They will then seal up all of the space within the tooth. This will help you to avoid future bacteria from entering the space.

If a root canal treatment is done, it can stop the tooth from getting darker. Once the procedure is done it can be possible to return the tooth to its original color with bleaching trays. It can be effective, but again, it may not be the exact shade of your other teeth.

Becoming Familiar with Phrases

Words like “vital tooth” and “non-vital tooth” may not always mean what you think they might.

These are dental school terms and can often confuse us as a patient. A “non-vital” tooth is one that simply does not have a nerve on the inside of it. A “vital” tooth is one that has a very healthy nerve in it.

“Vital” is reminiscent of the word “vitality”, which just means it is alive and well. These terms do not have to do with the importance of your teeth when they are being discussed by a dentist. Truly, each one of your teeth is extremely important. So, the death of any one of them can cause a ripple effect of dental issues.

There are many others terms and procedures you can familiarize yourself with before you receive dental care or have any kind of operation on your mouth.

Knowing exactly what is going on with your teeth will give you peace of mind when dealing with teeth problems.

Pearly Whites

Caring for your teeth is something you should do multiple times a day.

While you can’t control trauma that may happen to your tooth and cause it to die, you can control the amount of bacteria surrounding your teeth.

Floss and brush your teeth both morning and night. Care for your teeth like you do the rest of your body. Having regular check-ups from your dental pros can make all the difference as well.

When you’re ready for optimal dental care, contact us today.