You may not think of teeth as alive, but they are ACTUALLY pretty much alive. That also supports the notion that ‘a tooth can die.’
This may make some of you wonder how a tooth can die and how long does it take for a tooth to die after trauma? Generally, a tooth dies of a physical injury/trauma like a cracked tooth or intense cavity.
When an injury affects a tooth, it runs out of fresh blood supply. Hence, it dies. Fortunately, a dead tooth is reclaimable in some cases. This guide will walk you through the entire process, from how a physical injury affects a tooth and eventually cause it to die.
What Does it mean by a Dead Tooth?
As we said earlier, teeth are living things. The dental pulp, tigumssues, and nerves inside dentine are what keep a tooth alive. However, when a tooth goes through a physical injury or extreme cavity, it dies due to the loss of blood supply.
Depending on the case, a dying tooth may or may not show symptoms, but it needs immediate treatment before the damage extends to the jaw and gums.
What Causes a Tooth to Die Suddenly?
Three main reasons can cause a tooth to die:
- Trauma/Injury: When a tooth is injured due to trauma (like getting hit in the face with a heavy object) , it is highly likely to expire. The dying process can be either lengthy or short, depending on the severity of the case. For some, it may take a few days, while for others, it may take a year or more.
- Poor dental Hygiene: Tooth decay due to poor oral hygiene can ultimately cause tooth death. Cavities can occur when your mouth hygiene is not up to the mark, causing bacteria to infect the pulp. The infected pulp slowly causes the death of the cells and ultimately stops the blood supply to the tooth, and the tooth dies.
- Large fillings: Deep and wide fillings compromise a tooth’s integrity. It destabilizes the tooth over time and makes it prone to damage. Hence, large fillings eventually cause the tooth cells to die.
How long does it take for a Tooth to Die after Trauma?
Once a tooth goes through trauma or injury, it is only a matter of time before it expires. As said previously, depending on the damage, the entire process may take some days or even months.
Discolored or darkened teeth are often the initial sign of a tooth’s death. When teeth are healthy, they appear, pearl white or yellowish. Additionally, if you notice one of your teeth appears different in the shade than the rest, along with other symptoms like bad breath, gum pain, and sensitivity, know there is something wrong.
How long can a Dead Tooth stay in your Mouth?
A dead tooth, also called a non-vital tooth, can fall on its own, which is not a good idea to let happen as it can be pretty harmful to both your jaw and teeth. A dead tooth has no particular time span to stay in the mouth. It can take a few days up to a few years.
Also, dentists recommend that if you notice any symptoms such as the above-stated ones, you must get them checked immediately. In some cases, people fail to notice changes in their teeth and face complications like bacteria from a dead tooth spreading to the surrounding teeth.
How to manage pain before the treatment?
While you wait for your appointment day, the following are some tips you can use to manage the pain.
- Avoid hot and cold beverages: Extremely hot and cold beverages can increase pain. Hence avoiding them would be best till your appointment day.
- Use over-the-counter medications: If the pain becomes unbearable, get over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to minimize the pain.
- Avoid hard foods: Chewing hard foods exert pressure on the tooth and can aggravate the pain. Hence, avoiding them would be helpful in managing the pain.
What are the Treatment Options for a Dying Tooth?
Whether the tooth has died or is on the verge of dying, treating it as soon as possible is imperative. The reason is that if a dying tooth is left untreated, the bacteria can further spread to the gums, jawbone as well as surrounding healthy teeth and cause additional loss.
A dying or dead tooth can be saved via a root canal or tooth extraction. Let’s check when to go for which option.
When the dead tooth is mostly intact, a root canal is done to remove the dead pulp. The procedure involves opening the tooth to reach the dentin and cleaning out the infection using small instruments. Once the pulp is cleaned, the dentist seals the area using a permanent filling.
Most root canals require the placement of a crown after the procedure. But it’s not mandatory. However, if the filling is too large or the top layer of the tooth (enamel) has been damaged, then it would be a reasonable option.
Once the tooth has been saved from dying, you can use a bleaching treatment or other tooth whitening option to eliminate the discoloration. Alternatively, you can go for veneers to cover your anterior teeth.
If the tooth has been damaged beyond repair, in that case, you must go for tooth extraction to get rid of the dead tooth. Typically, dentists replace the dead tooth with an implant, denture, or bridge, depending on your choice, budget, and oral health.
How to Prevent a Dead Tooth?
The Oral Health Foundation suggests the following preventive measures to prevent a tooth from dying:
- Using Fluoride toothpaste: Brushing twice a day using fluoride toothpaste can help prevent a dead tooth.
- Flossing: Dead tooth occurs when acids and cavities make their way through the dentin and infect the pulp. Brushing and flossing religiously can help avoid the situation.
- Avoid Consuming Junk: Carbonated drinks and excessively sugary foods can lead to tooth decay and, eventually, dead teeth. So it’s better to avoid them in the first place.
- Go for regular dental checkups: one must visit the dentist every 12 to 24 months to keep a track of their oral health and avoid dental conditions.
Other preventive measures to prevent dead teeth include:
- Wear a mouth guard: While playing sports and other activities, it’s imperative to wear a mouth guard to prevent mouth injury. Also, it works great for people grinding their teeth in their sleep.
- Avoid chewing ice and inedible items: Do not use your teeth to open the packaging and chew ice.
Does a Tooth always Die after Trauma?
Not necessarily. A tooth dies wither when it gets injured or gets an extreme cavity and loses blood supply. Without losing a constant blood supply, a tooth won’t die.
How do I know if my Tooth is Dying?
A dying tooth becomes grey, dark brown, or even black color, looking as if it was bruised. Additionally, the discoloration will become worse with time, and so does the pain.
How to Save a Dying Tooth Naturally?
Unfortunately, you cannot save a dying tooth. While you can manage and slow down its symptoms, it will need to be treated eventually. Also, you can take preventive measures in the future to keep the surrounding teeth safe.
A dying tooth is not just painful but dangerous as well. A dead front tooth can affect your overall appearance and confidence level. It may not seem like a big problem initially, but it can affect the gums and jaw bones if not treated promptly. It is advisable to visit your dentist for routine checkups and follow a dental care routine to prevent any dental condition.