At Cornerstone Dental Group, many of our patients are surprised to learn their teeth, too, are alive. Unlike your hair or fingernails, each of your teeth has blood vessels and nerves like other parts of your body. Dr. Ryan Hussong, who treats toothaches in Polk City, IA, explains that this is why we sometimes feel pain in our teeth, not just in our gums and other soft oral tissue. Without the benefit of blood and nutrients, a tooth can become non-vital, or dead.
What You Mean, My Tooth is Dead?
When a tooth dies, it is usually due to one of two reasons. Either it has sustained serious damage due to trauma, or it has succumbed to a bacterial infection or tooth decay. Trauma isn’t necessarily an accident or injury, says Dr. Hussong. It could also stem from grinding your teeth, a condition known as bruxism, or from using your teeth as a bottle opener, for example. Sports injuries are a common cause of dental trauma, and can be mitigated by wearing custom-fitted athletic mouthguards. Biting into hard foods, such as popcorn kernels or ice, could also cause trauma.
Tooth decay may start as a relatively minor cavity. Without treatment, the decay spreads throughout the tooth past the enamel and dentin before attacking the pulp. The pulp, located in the innermost recesses of your tooth, contains nerves and blood vessels. When the tooth is unable to ward off the infection, blood flow ceases altogether. What begins as tooth sensitivity results in a severe, extremely painful tooth ache.
How Do I Know If My Tooth Is Dead?
Determining whether your tooth is no longer vital is difficult, which emphasizes the importance of regular dental exams and professional cleanings. Sometimes, a non-vital tooth will appear darker or slightly gray, a visible indication of a dead pulp. You may also experience swelling or an abscess, which can affect both your teeth and your gums. After an extended period of time, the non-vital tooth will become loose and eventually fall out. Other commonly reported symptoms include foul breath, a bad taste in your mouth, and sharp, stabbing pain.
If the tooth is indeed non-vital, you may require an extraction. However, Dr. Hussong recommends restorative dentistry following an extraction. Living with a missing tooth will have unpleasant consequences for your remaining teeth, your gums, your jaw, and your appearance. If the tooth has not yet died, Dr. Hussong may be able to salvage the tooth by performing a root canal treatment. He will remove the decayed parts of the tooth, eliminating all traces of infection, then rebuild the tooth. This usually means creating a dental crown to cover the tooth.
Need help treating your toothache in Polk City, IA? To learn more about preventive and restorative dentistry, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ryan Hussong, contact Cornerstone Dental Group at (515) 984-6001. We welcome patients living in Ames, Ankeny, Alleman, Grimes, and the 50226 area.