Is Your Tooth Really Dead?
How can you know if your tooth is really dead? And what does that mean?
When a tooth is dead, or non-vital, it means that the pulp dies and the tooth no longer has access to blood flow. The pulp is in the center of the tooth and is made up of living connective tissues called odontoblasts. When blood flow stops and the pulp dies, the tooth is dead, and either the pulp or the tooth must be removed.
Sometimes it seems like a tooth is dead when it is not actually dead – at least not yet. This is why it is important to have a dying tooth looked at by an endodontic professional.
Endodontists are specialized dentists who are experts at evaluating whether or not a dying tooth can be saved. They have access to equipment that allows them to look at a tooth from the inside out, giving them a clearer view of what is happening and the options for correcting the problems.
A cavity or a bacterial infection, if left untreated, can cause a tooth to die. The first sign is when a tooth experiences sensitivity. This means that the infection has reached the dentin layer of the tooth. Once it reaches the pulp, there will be severe tooth pain.
The tooth will fight infection using white blood cells, and this usually results in pus or an abscess forming. If not treated, the blood cells die, blood flow stops and the tooth dies.
Infection is not the only thing that can lead to a dead tooth. If filings or crowns are improperly administered, this can cut off the blood flow and kill a tooth. This can also happen as the result of an injury.
Once a tooth dies, that is not the end of the story. If you don’t take swift action, the bacteria that caused the tooth to die will grow and abscess, and the infection will spread, killing other teeth. You have two options if your tooth is dead:
2. Root canal therapy
Extraction is the removal of the dead tooth, which may be replaced with a dental implant. Root canal therapy is when the infection in the root of the tooth is cleaned out and the pulp is cleaned out, and the area is filled so further bacteria and infection can’t grow there.
In many cases, a root canal can save the tooth, even if the pulp inside the tooth is dead. The pulp can be removed, and if the root canal is properly performed, the tooth can be saved, which beats an expensive implant.
The best way to “save” a dead tooth is early detection and early treatment. Brushing and flossing regularly and properly can prevent bacteria from causing infections that could lead to dead teeth. Regular dental visits to have teeth cleaned and checked for early warning signs is also important.
When deciding what to do with dead teeth, remember that prevention is best, and using a specialist can help you to prevent further problems and infection.