How to tell if you have a cavity? The words alone are enough to give you shivers down your spine. After all, who wants their mouth to be nothing but a cesspool of decay and bad odor? Oh, and don’t even get us started with the pain you will definitely experience should you overlook proper oral care.
Having mentioned that, there are several specific topics that you probably want to focus on when it comes to taking care of your pearly whites.
Here are a few of them:
- The cause of tooth death
- Tooth death prevention
- The symptoms of tooth death
- Treatments for tooth decay
- The possibility of saving a dying tooth
In this in-depth guide that we’re about to provide you, we’re going to talk about each and every one of those. First and foremost, of course, we have to find out what exactly a dead tooth is, so allow us to enlighten you.
Telling if your Tooth’s Dead
Checking whether your tooth is dead can be quite a challenge if you don’t have the proper training or expertise, and that is why the opinion of your chosen dental professional becomes an invaluable tool here. We know, we know: going to the dentist could cost you, but it’s definitely better than losing your chompers. So, don’t hesitate to get a regular check-up at least twice a year.
It doesn’t mean, though, that it is completely impossible to tell if your tooth is dying all on your own. Here are a few things you should look out for when examining your very own pearly whites.
The Symptoms of a Dead Tooth
There are two primary symptoms that could give you a clue about your tooth’s health. First, pain is an indicator that something might be wrong with them. And, second, there is a significant change in color that you can see.
Now, let’s start with pain. Now, it’s not too simple to completely diagnose yourself. As we said, nothing beats the opinion of a dental care expert. However, you’ll get an idea about your tooth’s condition – especially in the case that there could be some decay going on – if you start to feel a sensation that ranges from mild shooting pains to extreme throbbing aches.
If it’s the latter, then it could even be a sign of infection, which could lead to abscesses on your gums. Signs to look out for here are: undesirable odors in your mouth, a generally foul taste within it, and pimples forming on your gums.
Now, let’s go to the change of color that you may experience in case your tooth is dying. Yes, yellow teeth may be normal, but if that shade becomes a deep hue, then there’s probably a chance that your teeth and gums’ red blood cells are dying. Even worse, this discoloration can range from deep yellow hues to even grey or black, which is similar to bruises. If you notice this, then consult your dental hygienist immediately.
Don’t get Confused!
The term “tooth death” can be very misleading. You see, just because your tooth is dying doesn’t mean that it should necessarily be removed right away. This leads us to our next point, which is about non-vital teeth.
Non-vital teeth are technically considered as “dead teeth,” since these are the ones that don’t have what we call a live nerve ending. However, it is entirely different from dead teeth caused by some infection or another.
However, non-vital teeth, despite their names, are very important when you consider that a majority of your pearly whites don’t actually have any live nerve endings. You see, the composition of teeth can be divided into layers.
There’s the 1st and innermost layer, also called the pulp
Then, there’s the part that contains all your nerves and blood vessels.
To tell whether a tooth is technically “alive” simply means to look at whether the nerves within them are active, and that’s usually not the case. These nerves simply function as a sort of sensor we use for temperature; it’s how we know whether what we are biting or chewing is either hot or cold. Losing that sensation during those instances when you can’t feel anything with your teeth is not really an indication that you have to lose it, because whether you have to or not really depends on the reason why the nerve inside it is experiencing decay.
So, What Really Causes Teeth to Die?
One of the primary reasons behind tooth death is due to a severe lack of blood flow in any given tooth’s nerves and tissues. Because of this deprivation, your teeth don’t get the necessary nutrients and sustenance it requires, which then leads to the formation of bacteria and eventual decay. You can look at it this way: without the right amount of blood flow within your teeth, the nerves, pulp, and tissues inside it begin to die and make it hollowed out, and that’s where all those nasty bacteria start to live in.
So, the question now is what happens after that? Well, there are two things that could result from this hollowing out of your tooth.
Now, tooth decay is caused by cavities, which is then caused by all the bacteria trying to enter your hollowed out tooth. It’s a problem that if left unchecked could result in tooth loss, since the bacteria could dig deep into your teeth, reaching the nerves and eventually the pulp (the innermost layer).
Of course, you’ll feel a pulsing, throbbing pain in this case, and that’s your body trying to fight off all the bacteria that’s trying to get inside your tooth. However, it’s not enough to leave it all to your body to heal up, so it is highly recommended that you ask for professional assistance if this were the case.
Experiencing severe blows or impact to your teeth, such as from something hard that you bit on or an external object hitting you right in your pearly whites, can result in the blood vessels within them to pop. As a result, blood flow will stop and the eventual tooth death will begin.
Especially in instances when the impact to your teeth was hard enough to crack or cause it to chip, we cannot overstate how painful this experience could be. Even worse, the initial pain that you feel during this instance is only the beginning: the pain will continue unless treated.
Now, don’t think that dental trauma is only caused by single, external blows or impacts; continual force, such as grinding or clenching, could eventually lead to dental trauma as you get older.
All of what we’ve told you might seem scary, but don’t worry: there are several options when it comes to treating them.
Treatments for Dead or Dying Teeth
Of course, prevention is always better than the cure. But in case you’re past that, then you should know that having your teeth treated early is still ideal than waiting for it to be completely hollowed out. The thing is, if you let the infection from the bacteria linger inside your teeth, they may eventually reach your jawbone and end up causing your chompers to fall off. Not to mention, this is a very, very painful experience.
Now, there are two ways to deal with a dying tooth and prevent bacterial infection from spreading. Here they are:
Sure, it’s not ideal to lose any of your teeth. However, cases where the infection in your tooth has already reached a point deep inside your nerves allow no other option, and that’s why getting that regular check-up becomes all the more important.
Now, tooth extraction is more affordable compared to other dental procedures out there, and you’re provided with anesthetic so you won’t have to feel any pain. However, it can get expensive when you take prosthetics into account, such as dentures.
Having a dying tooth does not necessarily mean you have to lose it. In other cases, all you’ll need is a root canal.
This procedure is more expensive than an extraction and is usually done in cases where the infection hasn’t spread too far. What happens here is that your dentist cleans out all the decaying and dead parts of your tooth and reconstructs it.
Don’t believe what you see on TV: root canals aren’t really painful, because you’ll be given an anesthetic prior to the procedure.
Still, the Best Way is Prevention
Avoiding tooth death could save you a whole lot of time, money, and comfort. All you have to do is keep up with proper dental maintenance, which means don’t forget to floss at least once a day; brush at least twice a day; and use antibacterial mouthwash to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Lastly, keep in mind that you shouldn’t visit your dentist only when you’re feeling pain or discomfort; a regular check-up once or twice a year can ensure your pearly whites are in tip-top condition. Good luck!