Oral care

Dying tooth: 4 Causes, 5 Symptoms, 3 Remedies, Prevention

Do you know what is a dying tooth. In this article, let’s explore its causes, symptoms, remedies and the prevention strategies in detail.

A tooth is composed of soft and hard tissue. A majority of people think that their teeth are not alive; however, the truth is that every tooth in your mouth is alive. There are three layers present in every tooth.

The layers include nerves, blood vessels, and pulp. The pulp layer of the tooth contains the other two layers of the teeth. The nerves in our teeth are essential since they help sense cold or hot food items.

However, when the nerves located in the pulp area become damaged, it leads to a dying tooth. Therefore, a dead tooth is one that has dead nerve cells and no blood flow. The blood flow shortage is a result of the dead nerve cells present in the pulp layer of the tooth. A dead nerve can also be referred to as a pulpless tooth or a necrotic pulp.

The damage to the nerves arises when the teeth are either injured or decaying. The decay or injury of the teeth causes infection, and this leads to the death of the nerves. A dead tooth is also referred to as a non-vital tooth. A dying tooth is often an indication of other underlying teeth problems like trauma and decay.

The dying tooth often has a different color in comparison to the healthy teeth in your mouth. The color of the dying tooth changes from white to black or dark brown, and this interferes with your tooth aesthetics. Plenty of people do not realize they have a tooth nerve dying until the dentist informs them.

However, it is essential to note that a dying tooth is not a clear indication of the loss of your tooth or its use. Nevertheless, once you spot a dying tooth, it is important you visit your dentist since the longer the dying tooth stays in your mouth, the longer you risk infection to the rest of your teeth or jaw.

Causes of a dying tooth:

dying tooth
Dying tooth
Image source: dental-health-index.com

Like mentioned earlier a dying tooth is the results of no blood flow to the tooth because of dead nerves. Blood helps sustain the life of all the body cells, and this includes the cells present in a tooth.

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When the nerves present in a tooth begin to die, the bacteria present in the mouth feed on the rotting matter. The decaying matter causes the bacteria to thrive in the tooth.

However, the damage to the tooth nerves comes about in the various ways below:


When a tooth decays, it leads to a tooth cavity. Delaying the treatment of a tooth cavity no matter the size often results in a dying tooth. Tooth decay begins on the first layer of a tooth proceeding to the other layers of the tooth. When not treated earlier, a tooth cavity can penetrate deeper into the other layers of the tooth and reach the pulp.

When a tooth decays, production of bacteria often occurs. The deeper the cavity, the further the bacteria get and more damage occur to the living tissues in your tooth. The body tries to kill the bacteria through an inflammatory reaction; however, without the appropriate help, the end up losing the battle.

Eventually, the blood stops flowing to your tooth nerves, and this causes the nerves to starve. The resultant effect is a toothache.


Another common cause of a dying tooth is trauma. When your teeth take hard hits for instance, when you fall or during a fight, the blood vessels within your teeth burst. Burst blood vessels result in the loss of blood and eventually the death of nerves and living tissues located in your tooth.

When such a trauma occurs, the first pain comes from the initial hit. However, the pain that follows the hit is quite a painful experience. The pain becomes intense when a blow or fall breaks or chips your tooth.

Other ways you can cause trauma to your teeth include grinding or clenching your teeth. People who clench or grind their teeth while they sleep are at a higher risk of having dead teeth as they grow older.

Poor dental hygiene:

Poor dental hygiene is the root cause of a dying tooth. Poor dental hygiene leads to teeth cavities, which in turn leads to a dying tooth.

Gum disease:

Gum disease also results in a dying tooth. When your mouth has gum disease, the gum often leaves the tooth exposed. The exposed portion of a tooth is left without protection from decay or bacteria. Without protection, the tooth is susceptible to decay.

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When the tooth begins, to decay the bacteria feed on it causing a tooth cavity to form. A tooth cavity results in the tooth nerve dying and blood supply to the tooth is cut short. Without the supply of blood, the nerves starve resulting in a dying tooth

Symptoms of a dead tooth:

A tooth nerve dying has the following symptoms


A dying tooth causes excruciating pain. The pain comes from an infection or a dead nerve on the tooth. The bacteria around the dead nerves apply pressure to the periodontal membrane. When the infection is not addressed the infection causes a bad odor, taste, and the gums swell.

Change in color:

A common characteristic of a dying tooth lies in the change of color. The tooth changes its color from white to grey, yellow, or brown. The discoloration of a tooth is often a clear indication of a dead tooth.

Sensitivity to cold or hot drinks:

Sensitivity to cold or hot drinks or food may be a constant or temporary depending on the damage of the nerves

Gum boils
Facial swelling

Remedies for a Dying Tooth:

Allowing the bacteria to continue growing inside your tooth poses a risk to the root of your tooth and the jawbone as well. Despite the tooth falling out on its own, it is important to find a treatment for the dead tooth.

It is also important to treat the condition earlier since you never know how long it does take for a tooth to die. Some of the remedies for a dead tooth include:

Root Canal:

Root canal enables you to keep your tooth intact. A root canal is a treatment method that helps clean the infection from the root and tooth. The dentist cleans the area of infection and seals it to avoid the further spread of infection.

A root canal is a remedy option most dentists prefer for a dead tooth over the extraction of the tooth. During the root canal procedure, the dentist creates an opening on your tooth and uses special equipment to clean the tooth. Once the tooth is clean, the dentist fills the hole with to prevent the tooth from being brittle over time.

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To prevent a dying tooth from being brittle, the dentist recommends the fitting of a crown on the tooth. The crown makes the dying tooth strong, and it offers it extra support.

Tooth Removal:

If the dying tooth is severely damaged, it becomes impossible for the dentist to restore the tooth. Therefore, the only cause of action is to remove the dead tooth. During the tooth removal procedure, the dentist removes the tooth.

Once the dentist removes the tooth, you can opt to use other available methods to replace the tooth. Some of the options to replace the lost tooth include denture, an implant, or bridge. However, you have to discuss the available options with your dentist.

Pain Management:

For those who prefer losing the dying tooth naturally, pain management helps get rid of the pain a dying tooth causes. Few methods you can do this include:

  • Taking medication for the pain
  • Avoid cold or hot beverages since they simulate the sensitivity of the tooth.
  • Avoid eating very hard food. Biting down on hard food items exerts pressure on the dying nerves of your tooth and this lead to pain.

However, it is important to remember the earlier you treat a dying tooth, the less the chances of losing the tooth as well as managing the pain.

Tips for Prevention:

Preventing a tooth from dying is entirely not possible; however, you can minimize the risk of dying tooth from occurring by:

  • Ensuring you brush your teeth thrice a day and flossing once every day. Good oral hygiene ensures that bacteria do not develop in your mouth.
  • Paying your dentist a regular visit for a dental checkup helps prevent a dying tooth problem immediately it starts. During your regular dental checkups, the dentist can easily identify the symptoms of a dying tooth and do its treatment before it spreads to the other layers of the tooth.
  • When playing sports like boxing or hockey always have a mouth guard to protect the teeth from trauma.
  • Avoid the consumption of sugary foods. Sugary foods encourage the spread of bacteria in your teeth, and it increases the rate of tooth decay.
  • Finally, ensure you take plenty of water after eating. Water helps to wash off the bacteria from the teeth.
  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319062.php
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/dead-tooth
  3. http://www.actforlibraries.org/dead-tooth/ 

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