Dead tooth? Know the causes, symptoms, and treatment

Dead tooth causes


Healthy teeth are so important for your overall health that a small amount of decay in your tooth and the pain can lead to distress, especially when you cannot pinpoint where the pain is coming from. Sometimes, you can see dental cavities and other dental issues, but a dead tooth is not easily detected during its early stages. Therefore it is often good to see your dentist as early as possible before the matter worsens.


What is exactly a dead tooth?

A tooth consists of three layers: enamel, dentin, and pulp. To remain viable, there must be a consistent blood supply to the pulp, the innermost section of the tooth comprising nerves and blood vessels. But when the blood supply to the pulp is cut off, your tooth starts dying because of a lack of essential nutrients and oxygen. This is also called a necrotic tooth or non-vital tooth. When left untreated, it becomes infected or abscess forms and causes pain, swelling, discomfort without proper care.




Some of the conditions that cause dead teeth are

  • Tooth decay: Because of a lack of constant oral hygiene habits, cavities might get formed, and as time passes, bacteria enter the pulp's soft tissue. Then it causes infection and leads to the death of the tooth. When the tooth pulp is healthy, it easily fights off bacteria, but the tooth becomes necrotic when the inflammation goes longer.
  • Large filling: Even if tooth decay does not reach the pulp, the presence of a big filling can cause the death of the pulp. This is caused by trauma to the tooth from - 
    • Long-term tooth decay
    • Process of cavity filling
    • Transfer of the heat and cold through dental filling
  • Trauma: Physical injury to your tooth occurs suddenly and for several reasons, like taking part in some contact sporting events or a fall where your mouth or face becomes injured. When not addressed in time, the blood flow to the tooth ceases, thereby causing your tooth to die.


Death tooth symptoms

If you think you have a dead tooth, then two primary symptoms you should look for:

  • Pain: The first thing that indicates you have a dead tooth is the feeling of discomfort in and around your tooth. The pain can be slightly irritating to excruciating. This is mainly caused by the infection and the swelling inside your tooth that causes pressure on the periodontal membrane, which is the sensitive nerve tissue around the tooth base.
  • Tooth discoloration: A tooth that is in the path of dying or is dead changes its colour because of less blood supply and is the same as bruising. The tooth might turn into different colors when it dies, changing from yellow colour to grey and finally to black.

When the tooth becomes more abscessed or infected, you will start encountering extra symptoms, such as

  • Periodontal membrane swelling around your tooth
  • A bad taste in your mouth because of infection
  • The foul smell that comes from tooth
  • Inflamed sore on your gums that indicate an abscess
  • Treatment of dead tooth

Getting rapid and effective treatment for dead teeth is essential, as many steps should be taken to save the dead tooth or at least save it from getting infected. To develop a good treatment plan, your dentist might order X-rays to determine the damage inside your tooth.


Two main treatment options are

  • Dead tooth extraction: Early treatment helps the tooth's removal when it is not possible to save, and is one of the best options to prevent spread of the infection. Tooth extractions are a standard process and can be done rapidly and with less discomfort. When the tooth is removed, there are only a few options remaining to replace the tooth at a later date, like a dental bridge, which will enhance your oral health.
  • Root canal: The whole process mainly includes a deep cleaning of the inside part of a tooth to remove the infected tissue or the abscess, cleaning of tooth canals, and pulp removal. Even when the tooth is dead, it can still be helpful as long as it is not broken. Dead teeth often tend to become brittle and break down very quickly. Therefore, a dental crown might be needed to strengthen and support your tooth.


Prevent dead tooth

  • Good oral habits and hygiene are essential for avoiding dead teeth. Do not forget to brush and floss daily, preventing particles from settling in your gum line. 
  • Include a variety of vitamins and minerals by eating various fruits and vegetables, which helps ensure that your teeth obtain essential nutrition.
  • People involved in contact sports like football, hockey, etc., should consider using a customized mouth guard to reduce or eliminate mouth injuries.

If you think you have a dead tooth, immediately see a dental doctor to formulate the best approach to stop the infection from occurring and prevent further damage. MyDentalPlan is one platform with numerous dental doctors you can approach for an early consultation.




About the Author:

Suprithi Choudhary, M.Pharm (Pharmacology) Medical Content writer

Suprithi is a Pharma Professional working as a medical content writer and previously worked as a Research Scientist and Senior Research Analyst


  • C.M Academy
  • Attended the Panjab University- Chandigarh, Pharma post-graduate in Pharmacology

Special thanks to Dr Deepak Kulkarni, a dental surgeon with over 23 years of experience who proofread this blog. He graduated from the H.K.E's Dental College, Gulbarga, and has certifications in ACHS International Accreditation Education Plan; Advanced Rotary Endodontic - Restorative Continuum; and Leadership, Team Building and Customer Service Leadership from the Oscar Murphy International.

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