What Is a Dead Tooth?

man holding cloth to mouth in pain-what is a dead tooth

What Is a Dead Tooth?

Teeth can withstand a lot of wear and tear. They are designed to withstand the force it takes to bite and chew so that we can stay nourished and healthy. Like any other part of our body, however, teeth are vulnerable to damage if you do not take care of them.

Your teeth consist of three parts: the enamel, the dentin, and the pulp. The innermost layer, the pulp, contains the nerves and blood vessels of the tooth. When the nerves in the pulp die, and blood flow stops, the tooth is considered dead. 

Trauma to your teeth from an injury can cause blood vessels to burst, resulting in a dead tooth, but the most common cause is tooth decay. If you have a dead tooth, also referred to as a non-vital or pulp-less tooth, you will either need a root canal or an extraction. 

Keeping your teeth healthy is the best way to avoid the extreme pain of a dying tooth. Our mission at Hicks Dental Group is to keep your smile strong. Our family-owned practice is proud to provide the community of Prescott, Arizona, with state-of-the-art dental care. 

Dead Tooth Symptoms

Early intervention is key! If you experience symptoms of a dead tooth, schedule an emergency dental appointment right away. Not only can we identify the problem, we can also provide you with a treatment plan to get your smile repaired as soon as possible. 


Typically, a dead tooth will change in color to yellow, gray, or even black. As the blood cells in your tooth die, your tooth will “bruise” or get darker in color.


A dead tooth often smells bad, especially if an infection has created a dental abscess. You may also experience bad breath and an unpleasant taste in your mouth.


Even though the nerves in your tooth are dying, you can still experience significant pain as bacteria and pus build up inside the tooth. Swelling is another common symptom that can cause nerve pain.

Preventing a Dead Tooth

The number one way to prevent a dead tooth is to maintain a good oral health care routine. Brushing and flossing regularly can stop decay-causing bacterial buildup in its tracks. Since treating a dead tooth works best if you catch it early, visiting the dentist for regular check-ups every six months is key to keeping your teeth healthy.

To prevent tooth trauma, wear a mouth guard. If you grind your teeth during sleep, a night guard will stop you from damaging them. It is also a good idea to use a mouth guard if you participate in contact sports or extreme sports.

Visit Hicks Dental Group in Prescott

A dead or dying tooth can cause severe pain and distress. If you have tooth pain, please don’t delay! Contact us to request an emergency appointment. Our friendly, dedicated team is here to alleviate your symptoms and prevent future complications. Drs. Paul, Scott, and Braden Hicks are all experienced professionals with the knowledge and skill to keep your smile healthy for years to come.


Image by Sammy-Sander from Pixabay