Numbness in your teeth or gums is never normal and should be taken very seriously. Many patients aren’t aware of the fact that their teeth are alive; they have nerves and blood vessels just like any other part of the body. Numbness is a sign that a tooth is beginning to die, or become non vital.

Why would a tooth die?

There are two main causes of tooth death: tooth decay, and dental trauma. When tooth decay is left untreated, it will eventually penetrate into the layer of dental pulp known as dentin inside the tooth. Often, you will experience pain when this happens, but if you continue to leave the tooth untreated, it will eventually die. When the tooth nerve looses access to blood flow and nutrients, the tooth will become numb.

An injury to the tooth, whether from a fall or trauma, tooth grinding, or biting into something hard (such as ice or popcorn kernels) can also cause a tooth to become non vital. Trauma can cut off the blood flow to a tooth immediately, causing the tooth to die. This is why it is so important to wear a mouth guard when participating in sports or other activities where your teeth may become damaged.

Can a non vital tooth be treated?

A tooth that has gone numb or become non vital can still be treated in order to prevent bacteria and tooth decay from spreading into the gums and surrounding teeth. In most cases, the dentist will choose to perform root canal therapy in order to save the tooth. The dead tooth pulp and infection will be cleaned out from within the tooth. The interior of the tooth will then be filled and sealed in order to prevent further infection.

In some cases however, root canal therapy is not possible. When this happens, the tooth will need to be extracted. Once the tooth has been removed, it will need to be replaced with a dental implant, fixed dental bridge, or a removable denture in order to prevent the remaining teeth from shifting. This will also help protect against gum and bone loss.

Preventing a tooth from dying

The best way to prevent a tooth from dying is to maintain a proper dental hygiene regimen. This includes brushing twice per day using a fluoride toothpaste and a soft bristled toothbrush that has been approved by the American Dental Association, and flossing once per day. This helps to prevent the tooth decay that can lead to tooth death. It is also important that you wear the proper safety equipment and mouth guard while participating in sports or other activities where your teeth may be injured.

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