Teeth are living tissue that requires a constant supply of blood and nutrients in order to maintain themselves. The pulp inside of a tooth contains numerous tiny blood vessels that provide the tooth with its blood supply. If the pulp is destroyed by injury or a severe tooth infection, the supply of blood will be interrupted and the tooth will die.
You can often tell a tooth is dying because it becomes discolored — the enamel above the pulp is slightly transparent, so the dying pulp will show through. A dying or dead tooth may appear purple or black. Having a dead tooth makes you more susceptible to infection since bacteria can easily invade the dying pulp—cutting a tooth off from its blood supply also cuts it off from your body's immune system. If you have a dead tooth, the best option is to have a root canal performed on it. To learn more about this procedure and why it's necessary to perform on a dead tooth, read on.
What Is a Root Canal?
A root canal is a dental procedure that replaces the pulp of a tooth with a resin called gutta-percha in order to prevent further infection. During the procedure, a dentist will create an opening in the enamel of the tooth so that they're able to access the pulp underneath. The pulp will be carefully removed in order to create a hollow space in the tooth, and then the space will be filled with an antibiotic gel and gutta-percha.
Once your tooth heals, the dentist will place a crown on the tooth in order to strengthen it and reduce the likelihood of it breaking when you use it to chew.
Why Is It Necessary to Perform a Root Canal on a Dead Tooth?
Replacing the pulp of the tooth with gutta-percha drastically reduces the risk that the tooth will become infected. Dead pulp is a breeding ground for bacteria since they're able to eat the pulp and reproduce without any interference from your body's immune system. If the pulp becomes infected, the bacteria can spread through the root of the tooth into your gums and your jawbone.
A bacterial infection in your gums or jawbone can create a dental abscess, in which bacteria and pus create a swollen, painful bump on your gums. A dental abscess is a serious condition because the bacteria can spread further throughout your jawbone and cause major problems for your healthy teeth—the bacteria can weaken your jawbone to the point where your healthy teeth fall out. A dental abscess and a bacterial infection in your jaw often cause severe pain in addition to damaging your healthy teeth.
When you remove the dead pulp by having a root canal performed on the tooth, you prevent this from happening—bacteria can't infect the gutta-percha that's inside of a tooth after it has had a root canal performed on it.
If you notice that one of your teeth is discolored and you think that it's dead, schedule an appointment with a dentist so that you can have X-rays taken of your teeth. An X-ray is able to show the dentist if the tooth is truly dead. If the tooth is dead, it's a good idea to have a root canal performed on it—leaving a dead tooth in your mouth puts your healthy teeth at risk by inviting bacterial infection.
Contact a dentist if you have additional questions about root canals.