Four Signs You Might Have a Dead (or Dying) Tooth

…And What You Should Do About It

The thought of having a dead tooth in one’s mouth may sound a bit ghoulish. However, it’s fairly common – to the tune of more than 15 million people each year. Given those stats, there’s no need to be haunted by the specter of a dead tooth happening to you. Gentry Dentistry of Suwanee is happy to break down the signs to look for and steps to take in the event that one of your teeth is dead or dying.

What Is a Dead Tooth and What Are Some Potential Causes?

When the blood flow to a tooth is disrupted – either by external or internal factors. As a result, the pulp – the nerve and blood vessel epicenter of the tooth – may begin to die. Over time, the tooth will become weak and can fracture easily. Some potential causes of that blood flow disruption may be an injury, like a hard hit from a recreational activity like football, hockey or boxing, or a fall that impacts your mouth. Another major cause for a dead tooth is poor dental hygiene and untreated tooth decay. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), tooth decay impacts an estimated 85.58% of people in the U.S. between the ages of 24-34 years. Those statistics jump to 94.30% between the ages of 35-49 years and 95.62% between the ages of 50-65, indicating that the risk increases with age.  

What Are the Four Signs of a Possible Dead Tooth?

  1. Discoloration – One of the most common indicators of a dead tooth is a change in color from the surrounding teeth. As the blood supply is disrupted and the tooth begins to die, that tooth may become gray in color, although we’ve witnessed some dead teeth in shades of yellow, brown or even black, if left unchecked for too long.
  1. Foul Odor – As is often the case with something that is decaying and dying, a foul odor may be associated. When it comes to a dead tooth, you may notice bad breath and possibly a bad taste in your mouth.
  1. Tooth Sensitivity or Pain – As the nerves that lead to a dying tooth begin to die away, they may become extra sensitive, causing you a tooth ache or sensitivity to hot or cold foods. You may experience pain while chewing at or around the site of the dead tooth.
  1. Swelling or an Abscess – It’s not unusual for an infection to accompany a dying tooth. That infection might include swelling in the gumline around the tooth or an abscess – small pocket of pus – beneath the surface of the gums.

What Are My Options if I Have a Dead (or Dying) Tooth?

While a sports injury trauma may bring on the sudden, unexpected death of a tooth, most hygiene-related dead teeth are entirely avoidable with regular check-ups, dental cleanings, x-rays, proper brushing and flossing, and avoidance of sugary foods. If you have a dying tooth and your dentist catches it early enough, he or she may be able to return proper blood flow and save the tooth.

  • Root Canal – This procedure – also known as endodontics – involves the removal of the nerves, pulp and any other portion of the tooth that has become infected. The tooth is then filled and sealed to prevent further damage.  
  • Extraction – If left untreated too long, there may be no other option left than to extract the dead tooth entirely before it impacts any of the surrounding teeth or the infection works its way into your jawline. Gentry Dentistry of Suwanee is able to perform most extractions in our office but rest assured that this will be our last possible option. It is always our desire to save the tooth. A dental implant can take the place of the extracted tooth – crafted to match the look and color of the surrounding teeth.  

If you are concerned that you might have a dead – or dying – tooth in your mouth, we encourage you to schedule an appointment as soon as possible with the dentists of Gentry Dentistry of Suwanee. The sooner we’re able to assess the viability of your tooth, the more likely we’ll be able to save it. You can BOOK NOW through our website, email us at or call our friendly front desk at 770-945-5850.

Leave your worries at the door and enjoy a healthier smile


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