Dead Teeth Information, Treatment & Prevention

Simply said, the dead tooth is the one that no more has a functional nerve inside of it. Our teeth are made out of three hard layers – enamel, cementum and dentin, and the fourth, soft one, which is the pulp. Inside of it is the nerve, as well as blood vessels, and basically a dead tooth is the tooth with the dead pulp. Sometimes the dead tooth is also called a pulpless tooth. Now, to the outsider, this can seem like not that big of a deal, but in fact a dead tooth can become infected just like any other regular tooth and lead to much bigger dental problems. If by any chance you think you might have a dead tooth, try to see your dentist as soon as you can, so you can keep the situation under control.

Why do tooth nerves simply die?

Truth be told, you can’t always tell the tooth is dead and there are many different reasons why this could happen. The cause isn’t always the same, and while sometimes it can be hard to diagnose what caused the nerve to die, most of the times it’s pretty easy to figure out what caused it.

For example, tooth trauma, such as when you hit it by falling to the ground or running into a hard surface, sports injuries, and even severe cases of teeth grinding, can damage the nerve. Another potential reason could be the tooth decay that advanced into a cavity. Once the cavity is formed, it can be inhibited by bacteria which will cause an infection and ultimately lead to the nerve dying out. Healthy pulp can try to help and defeat the infection, but it can only do that for so long, until bacteria becomes prevalent. That will cut short the blood flow available to the pulp, resulting in nerve starvation and it’s imminent death. Another very common reason is when the bite pressure is only on a few teeth, resulting in them being more worn out, making their nerves more accessible to factors that can cause a premature death.

How to figure out if the tooth is dead?

Before the tooth is completely dead, you could potentially feel a lot of pain, but in most cases, there could be no pain at all. Even if you do, pain can be caused by many different reasons, not just a dying tooth, so it isn’t really the best signal to follow. One of the safest signals is actually tooth discoloration – the tooth tends to become gray or even yellow colored, due to blood cells dying out and sort of speak – bruising it. This is a symptom that won’t subside by itself if the situation is left unchecked.

You might be wondering – how can I feel the pain if the tooth nerve is dead? This is because the pain isn’t caused by the nerve dying out, but instead is caused by complications that happen when the tooth is left untreated. Although definitely visually unappealing, discoloration is not the worst thing that can happen once the tooth dies. As we already mentioned – the worst thing that can happen is actually a potential infection or a beginning of an abscess. Tooth infections are more often than not very easy to spot, because they cause bad taste and bad smell, as well as swelling and gum pimples.

Often times people assume that since the tooth causes no problems, it needs no treatment, which is completely wrong and this wrong logic is the reason number one for serious complications.

Dead tooth treatment

Remember, even if you have very little feeling left in your tooth, it’s always recommended not to ignore the situation and think that it’s going to be alright. Once the nerve dies, the inside of the tooth is only filled with dead tissue, which is an ideal place for an infection to start. And if the dead tooth creates an abscess, that might result in an excruciating pain in a tooth that used not to cause any problems whatsoever. Not to mention that once there is an infection in one tooth there is always a chance of it spreading to other teeth and the jawbone.

Usually, the treatment for the dead tooth is a root canal procedure or a complete tooth extraction, which always depends on a specific situation. After checking the situation out, your dentist will recommend what he thinks is the best thing to be done for you. Extraction is mostly used in cases where tooth decay is so advanced, that the tooth is no longer worth saving. A dental implant usually takes place of the extracted tooth, which is a very good thing for the patient, since it won’t leave the socket empty, and a brand-new tooth is born where once was a very damaged tooth. On the other hand, root canal is done when the tooth appears to be in a solid condition and it isn’t cost-effective to extract it just because the nerve is dead. The dead tissue will be extracted and the tooth will be filled in and sealed of with a dental crown, becoming almost fully functional once again. This is especially important in the situations where the patient might not be able to afford a dental implant, but once again, you should find the dentist you trust and follow his specific-to-you recommendations.


It’s not always easy to prevent this situation, but proper hygiene is a great place to start, including brushing and flossing at least twice a day. Also, avoiding sugary foods, because they wear down our teeth, and for teeth grinders – wearing a mouth guard at night is definitely not a bad idea.

If you believe you could have a dead tooth, make sure you schedule a dentist appointment as soon as you can. The last thing you want in this situation is for complications to arise, making it close to impossible to salvage your tooth. Do yourself a favor by following a better late than never proverb, just so you can be on a safe side.