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How To Tell If You Have A Dead Tooth And Why It's Important

How To Tell If You Have A Dead Tooth And Why It's Important


By Dr. Declan Devereux

We have all seen a dark tooth, but is every dark tooth dead? There are many reasons for a tooth to turn dark but the most common is from a trauma. If a trauma occurs elsewhere in the body the area will often have a bruise the next day. The bruise is caused by the rupturing of red blood cells which shows through the skin. If the trauma occurs to a tooth the red blood cells inside the tooth rupture and the discoloration takes a lot longer to show up, since the tooth is so dense. Furthermore, once the discoloration occurs inside the tooth it doesn't go away unlike a bruise to the skin. Often this type of trauma to a tooth will be enough to permanently damage the nerve and leave it "dead."

There are other things that can also kill the nerve of a tooth such as decay, excessive clenching, and gum disease. A simple way to tell if the nerve of the tooth is dead is to apply a small piece of ice or something similar to only the tooth that may be dead and then doing that same test to a different tooth in your mouth. A normal tooth will feel the cold sensation and it will go away when the cold is removed. A dead tooth won't even feel the cold. (A dental x-ray can then be used to confirm the dead tooth). The reason it is so important to do something about a dead tooth is that dead teeth have no circulation inside them. This allows bacteria to multiply inside the dead tooth and your body's immune system can't stop it. The bacteria then get into the surrounding bone and can cause an abscess that further weakens your immune system.

The good news is that there are treatment options for dead teeth so that this infection won't occur. If you suspect you may have a dead tooth we can recheck your tooth and see if it is really dead and talk about your options if it is. It is dangerous to ignore a dead tooth and jeopardize your health.

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