Most people think that a tooth is just a solid mass of enamel jutting out of your gum. Actually, a tooth has a core (the pulp) of living tissue that contains a nerve and blood vessels. Just like any other living tissue in the body, the pulp can be damaged. If the damage is extensive enough to cut off blood flow, the tooth can die.
Signs of a Dead Tooth
There are three main indicators of a dead tooth. They are:
- Pain: As the nerve inside the tooth begins to die, you may experience pain or discomfort. The pain can range from slightly uncomfortable to excruciating.
- Darkening: A dead tooth may darken to a varying shade of yellow, gray or black. This is a type of bruising as a result of the blood vessels dying. This mainly happens to untreated dead teeth. The enamel’s original coloring can be restored, but will require treatment.
- Infection: If you notice a pimple-like sore on your gums, a foul taste in your mouth, or pain and swelling around the dead tooth, you may have an infection in the surrounding tissue. Often times, a dead tooth will expel pus, which will cause bad breath. Any of these symptoms can point to an abscess which will need to be treated quickly in order to prevent damage to the surrounding tissue.
Even though these are common signs of a dead tooth, many people have no symptoms at all. This is why it is important to visit your dentist on a regular basis for hygiene check-ups.
Why should you treat a dead tooth? If it isn’t causing any problems, why not leave it alone? Because the dead pulp is a breeding ground for bacteria which can cause extensive damage if left alone. Treatment of a dead tooth is simple, and consists of two options: a root canal or extraction.
- Root Canal: This is an option if you want to try to save the existing tooth. By drilling into the tooth and removing the inner tissue, the dentist can prevent further infection and tooth loss. This is a popular and painless procedure.
- Extraction: If the damaged tooth cannot be saved, then an extraction will be performed. This is the least expensive option, but can lead to more dental issues further down the road such as shifting and functional issues.
Visit your dentist often for regular check-ups and cleanings. By doing this, you can catch any dental issues early enough to have them corrected before any extensive damage is done. If you do develop a dead tooth, keep in mind the options listed above for treatment. Many people shy away from root canals and extraction because they believe the procedures to be painful or cosmetically damaging.
On the contrary, root canals actually relieve pain and it is easy to replace missing teeth, Pembroke Pines dentist Michelle Xiao says, if they had to be extracted to prevent infection. Remember, the first thing a person usually notices about you is your smile. Your dentist can help you keep your smile looking its best.