Top 4 Signs You Have a Dead Tooth

    dead tooth
    1024 640 Golsen Family Dentistry

    What happens if you suddenly find yourself with a painful or discolored tooth?

    These symptoms can point to a dead (or “non-vital”) tooth, which is a tooth that has lost or is losing the blood supply to its soft tissue, or “pulp.” In addition to discoloration or darkening, a dead tooth can also be extremely painful and sensitive.

    Some teeth die due to past trauma, like a sports injury (wear those mouth guards!). Other teeth die due to untreated decay that has penetrated into the soft tissue.

    Either way, the tooth is likely to become painful. And, since it can also cause an infection in the tooth or gum, it’s vital to see a dentist as soon as you can.

    Are you worried you may have a dead tooth? Here are the top four indications.



    Most people know what it’s like to have a toothache — that constant, dull throbbing pain resonating through the tooth and up into the gums.

    If you have a dying or dead tooth, you may have a toothache. It may come and go or be constant. You might find it’s triggered by hot, cold, or sweet foods. In any case, it’s likely this may be an extremely painful toothache.

    An ongoing toothache is a sign that a visit to the dentist is in order.


    Sensitive teeth can have various causes, but a tooth that’s dying can exhibit sensitivity as a symptom. This sensitivity may become severe.

    If you’re feeling sharp pangs in one specific tooth when eating hot, cold, or sweet foods, or flossing, call your dentist.

    Abscessing or Infection

    As a tooth dies, the dying soft tissues can cause a bacterial infection that may lead to a tooth abscess.

    An abscess is a pocket of pus caused by infection. It can occur in the gums next to the tooth, or at the base of the root.

    In addition to pain, symptoms of an abscess can include a bad taste in the mouth, foul breath, or a pimple-like spot on the gums. If the infection that is causing the abscess isn’t treated, it can spread into the bone.

    Change of Tooth Color

    As a tooth dies, it might become a different color than the surrounding teeth, usually gray or black. It will be a markedly different color, so it’s unlikely you’d mistake a stained tooth for a dying tooth.

    The red blood cells dying in the pulp are what cause this color change. The color change won’t go away on its own, so if you see this occurring in your tooth call your dentist.

    How is a Dead Tooth Treated?

    How quickly your dentist diagnoses your dead tooth can impact the treatment plan. A cracked or very decayed tooth may require an extraction.

    However, if the tooth itself is in fairly good shape, your dentist may perform a root canal to remove the infected soft tissue inside the tooth and then seal the tooth with a crown.

    Worried You May Have a Dead Tooth?

    If you’re suffering from pain, sensitivity, or discoloration, and you think you may have a dead tooth, please contact our Alpharetta dentist office as soon as you can. The sooner you are seen and diagnosed, the better.

    Our Alpharetta dental practice will provide you with exceptional care as we work to come up with a treatment plan that works best for you!