What Is a Non-Vital Tooth?

Although you cannot see the pulp at the center of a tooth, its health is crucial for the look and feel of your smile. The tooth’s pulp features a cavity filled with nerves and blood vessels that ensure the tooth stays connected to the rest of the body and therefore healthy.

If the pulp sustains damage that blocks blood from flowing properly to the tooth, then the tissue within the tooth can deteriorate and die. Dentists refer to the condition as a non-vital tooth, also known as a dead tooth.

A non-vital tooth could face a greater risk of infection and other serious dental concerns. So diagnosing and monitoring the condition is necessary for optimal preventive dental care.

You can better manage a non-vital tooth when you know more about the issue. Learn details about tooth pulp vitality concerns, including their causes, symptoms, and treatments, when you read on.

What Is a Non-Vital Tooth

Causes of Tooth Pulp Injuries

You might wonder how tooth pulp, which is shielded by both enamel and dentin, can sustain enough damage to become non-vital. Sometimes, an accidental blow to the face or other injury can generate enough pressure to hurt the underlying blood vessels in the pulp and make it non-vital.

Another common cause of problems with the tooth pulp is advanced tooth decay. Most of us will develop a cavity at some point, an early form of decay that results in a hole in the tooth’s enamel. If cavities go untreated, decay will spread and reach the pulp, causing significant damage.

Signs You Have a Non-Vital Tooth

One of the first indicators that your tooth pulp sustained enough damage to become non-vital is discoloration. Without enough blood flow, the tooth color will start to darken and become dull and grey. Many people may notice some sensitivity pain on the affected tooth as well.

Sometimes, a patient will not realize their tooth has become non-vital until it contracts an infection. In this case, they can experience severe tooth pain, swelling, or a foul smell on their breath.

Because the symptoms of a non-vital tooth can vary, a dentist will want to confirm the diagnosis. They can see signs of issues with the tooth pulp in a routine x-ray. But they will check the vitality of the tooth with thermal testing too.

Treatment Options for a Non-Vital Tooth

Non-vital tooth pulp does not always warrant emergency intervention from a dentist. If you have a non-vital tooth, the dentist will want to monitor this tooth closely to ensure it does not become infected. Some patients might want to seek cosmetic dental solutions to address discoloration in the affected tooth.

However, if you have an infection or abscess in the tooth, you will need urgent treatment. The dentist may need to perform root canal therapy to get rid of the damaged pulp. They finish the treatment by covering the tooth with a crown, which will offer long-term protection.