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Artistic Expressions Dentistry

Causes of a Dead Tooth: What Dental Patients Should Know

By Bruce Wilderman on August 29, 2014

A couple together outdoorsHere at Artistic Expressions Dentistry, we believe in comprehensive dental care to best serve the people of the greater Doylestown area. This often means restorative dentistry with an emphasis on promoting total wellness and enhanced aesthetics. Truly a healthy smile is also one that looks great.

One topic that has come up a fair amount online and among our patients is the idea of a dead tooth. We'd like to look into this matter in some basic detail since most people have a major misunderstanding when it comes to the idea of a dead tooth and what that means.

What does it mean to have a "dead tooth"?

In basic terms, a dead tooth refers to a tooth in which the dental pulp and nerve within the tooth have ceased functioning.

It may help to consider the anatomy of a tooth to help explore this idea. Beneath the topmost enamel layer of a tooth and the inner dentin layer is a hollow chamber that contains soft tissue known as dental pulp. This dental pup helps provide blood flow and nutrients to the tooth and allows the tooth to detect sensations such as hot and cold.

Is the dental pulp important for dental health?

The dental pulp is important to the initial development and grown of a tooth, this is true. However, in adulthood, the dental pulp itself is no longer necessary per se for the tooth to still function. In other words, just because a tooth is dead does not mean it has to be removed due to its inability to function. Then again, the cause of the tooth death and the affect on the tooth structure may necessitate extraction.

Cause #1: Tooth Decay and the Death of a Tooth

One of the most common causes of tooth death is tooth decay. We don't mean minor cavities but more substantial decay that allows oral bacteria to access the soft tissue in the pulp chamber. When this occurs, the dental pulp becomes infected and can cause the tooth to die.

Cause #2: Injury/Trauma and the Death of a Tooth

The other common cause of tooth death is injury and trauma to the teeth. This can happen as a result of an auto accident, a sports injury, an assault, and so on. In the case of injury and trauma, the blow to the mouth may be so severe that it affects the dental pulp's function within the tooth. In addition, a tooth being broken or seriously cracked may allow oral bacteria to infect the pulp.

Symptoms of a Dead Tooth

Some of the most common symptoms of a dead tooth include:

  • Darkening of the tooth's color
  • Pronounced tooth sensitivity
  • Soreness and discomfort
  • Swelling around a tooth
  • Persistent bad breath from infection

Treatment Options to Address Dead Teeth

When the tooth can be saved, the ideal treatment is a root canal. This involves the removal of the soft tissue within the tooth and the filling of the dead tooth with a strong inert material. The treated tooth is capped with a crown to restore general function and, when possible, aesthetics.

If the tooth structure is severely compromised and the tooth cannot be saved, extraction is usually the most viable option for care. In such cases, restorative treatments to fill the tooth gap (e.g., dental bridge, dental implants) can be discussed in greater detail.

Tips for Prevention

Here are some basics tips that can help you prevent the death of a tooth:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day (ideally after every meal)
  • Floss your teeth at least once a night (ideally after every meal)
  • Wear mouth protection during sports and other applicable activities
  • Do not chew on inedible objects
  • Visit your dentist twice a year for regular checkups

Learn More About Advanced Dental Care Treatment

To learn more about various general dental care topics and how our team can help you have a healthy, beautiful smile, be sure to contact our dental care center today. We at Artistic Expressions Dentistry look forward to your visit and helping you achieve total wellness through a great smile.

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400 Swamp Rd
Doylestown, PA 18901

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