Everyone wants to have a nice smile, but the first step is always to ensure you have and practice good dental health. Unfortunately, many people each year suffer from dead or dying teeth and all the negative effects this brings. A dead or dying tooth is easily identifiable due to the discoloration that comes with it. This discoloration process can take months and may cause your tooth to take on many different shades in the process. Some dying teeth appear yellow, while others may look brown, gray or black. The exact color will depend on your unique dental situation and where in the process of dying your tooth is.

What is a Dead Tooth?

A dead tooth is a tooth that is no longer receiving a fresh supply of blood. While many people may think that our teeth are just inert enamel, this is absolutely not true. There are many aspects to tooth, and they all work together to make your teeth a living part of your body. A tooth dies when the nerve and other aspects inside become damaged, and do not bring blood into the tooth itself. This lack of blood flow is what kills the tooth.

Symptoms of a Dead Tooth

For many people, the first sign of a dying tooth will be the discoloration that happens. Some people will not recognize it until it is too late to save or do anything about. Others, may experience either mild or severe pain and be able to see the dentist early enough to try and save it. Other symptoms associated with this generally include bad breath and gum swelling. If you recognize any of these symptoms it is important to see your dentist right away to prevent any further complications. Treating a dying tooth early is the best way to prevent infections and loss of other teeth.

What Causes A Dead Tooth?

The most common reason for a tooth to die is trauma or injury to the tooth and the nerve inside the tooth. For instance, if you fall and hit your mouth or get hit in your mouth with a ball or other flying object your teeth can die. It can cause the nerve or enamel of the tooth touchup and break. When a tooth is traumatized in some fashion, one will likely experience pain immediately and notice is wrong right away. If this situation occurs, see a dentist as soon as possible so that they can create a plan to remove the tooth or mitigate further damage.

Another reason for a tooth to die is because of poor hygiene, and lack of proper dental care. If you do not brush your teeth regularly and you develop cavities that are not treated, the plaque can eat through your enamel. If left untreated, the bacteria can reach the root of your teeth and slowly cause them to die. This may take months for the tooth to die completely, and be a source of excruciating pain.


In order to treat a dying tooth you must first see your dentist – do not try to mitigate it yourself. Most experienced dentists will be able to determine if a tooth is dead just by looking at it, however, they will often suggest an x-ray to determine if the infection has spread to any of your other teeth.

Once it is confirmed that you that the tooth is indeed dead, you and your dentist will be able to formulate a plan for fixing it. In some situations it may be best to remove the tooth completely. Other times your doctor will recommend that you have a root canal to save the hard structure of the tooth. During this process the dentist will enter your tooth and remove the pulp. They will clean out the tooth and remove any and all bacteria. Then, they will fill the hole and most often place a crown on the tooth to seal it and for obvious cosmetic reasons. This option may be painful, however, it can absolutely help you save a tooth is advanced decay. Generally speaking, the earlier that you see your dentist, the less painful the procedure will be.


Sometimes it may be impossible to prevent the loss of teeth, however, there are ways to reduce your risk. The single best way to prevent this is to make sure you take good care of your teeth with a consistent preventative regimen. This includes brushing twice a day, flossing regularly and visiting the dentist about twice a year. You should also avoid sugary foods and drink only water before bed to prevent food from sitting on your teeth overnight. This will help prevent plaque build up and ensure that your teeth are at a reduced risk for cavities and the complications that follow. To prevent damage and trauma to your teeth, it is also recommended that you wear a mouth guard during participation in sports. This physical protection for one’s teeth should always be used, and is the first line of defense against getting a sports related dental injury. Remember to always see your dentist if you experience dental pain, discoloration, or simply think there may be dental trauma.