A dead tooth is one that no longer has living nerves and tissue inside. Oral surgeons say nearly all non-vital teeth require professional treatment.
You might not experience any pain when a tooth dies. If that’s the case, you may be tempted to just leave it in place. Going that route is risky, however, as keeping non-vital teeth can lead to further oral health problems.
What Causes a Dead Tooth?
Trauma and decay are the two main causes of tooth death.
Sports injuries, falls and assaults often knock out the front teeth, severing the blood supply to their roots. Left untreated, the pulp dies.
Rampant tooth decay can also result in the pulp and nerve tissues dying off. When bacteria spread into the root cavity, the natural inflammatory response ends up adding pressure, which eventually cuts off the blood supply.
How Do You Spot a Dead Tooth?
Many people with dead teeth have no discomfort. For that reason, oral surgeons suggest keeping an eye out for discoloration. When a tooth darkens or turns yellow, gray or black, it means that blood cells inside are probably dying.
Why Can’t You Keep a Dead Tooth?
No matter how little pain you feel from a non-vital tooth — and no matter how little you care about the change in coloration — leaving the problem untreated is never a good idea.
The empty space inside dead teeth is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, the perfect setting for an infection. You could also end up with a painful abscess. With treatment, you can avoid both these issues.
How Is a Dead Tooth Treated?
The two main treatment options for dead teeth are root canals and extractions.
If a non-vital tooth is in relatively good condition, a root canal can clean, fill and seal off the empty space. In some cases, further cosmetic or structural treatment may be necessary to restore the tooth’s appearance and stability.
When a non-vital tooth has extensive decay or root resorption, extraction may be the only solution. After extraction, oral surgeons generally recommend a dental implant as a replacement. Dental implants not only fit, feel and function just like natural teeth, but they also help preserve jawbone health.
If you suspect you have a dead tooth, make an appointment with a local oral surgeon as soon as possible. For expert advice and compassionate care in the greater Salt Lake City area, turn to the professionals at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah.
Dr. Partridge and Dr. Maxfield are highly skilled, board-certified oral surgeons with over a decade of experience serving patients in northern Utah. To schedule a consultation to discuss treatment for a dead tooth, contact our Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele office today.