We’ve all likely seen someone with a dead tooth—a dark tooth, typically in the front of the mouth. They might tell you a story of how they fell off their bike and smacked their face on the pavement, got hit in the face with a door, or their little one accidentally head-butted them.
At first, the person might not experience any painful symptoms. Maybe their lip or face hurts from the impact of the incident, but their tooth might not hurt at all.
Over time, however, the tooth changes color, eventually turning gray or black. A dark tooth indicates that the nerve tissue inside the tooth has died. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. For most people with a dead tooth, intense pain is in their future.
Fortunately, our Renovo Endo team can help with regenerative endodontics throughout Chicagoland—taking a dead tooth and then, seemingly, bringing it back to life as a “zombie tooth.”
When a tooth experiences trauma, the pulp tissue can die. Often referred to as the “nerve” of the tooth, the soft pulp tissue consists of a mass of nerve, connective, vascular, and lymphatic tissues.
The pulp mass is very delicate and can easily become inflamed and irritated. If we get hit in the face somehow, that trauma can cause extreme irritation and lack of blood flow to the tooth, leading to pulp death. Necrotic pulp tissue turns black, changing the tooth’s color from the inside.
A tooth that experiences trauma needs treatment immediately—either root canal treatment or an extraction. However, some people don’t pursue treatment because they aren’t experiencing pain.
What people don’t realize, though, is that bacteria from the dead tissue can infect nearby tissues, including the gums, jawbone, and adjacent teeth.
When the infection gets bad enough, it will seem like the tooth itself is dead. Hence, the term “zombie” tooth for dead teeth that are revived through treatment. Our patients have told us that the dead tooth pain is some of the worst tooth pain you can experience.
Here are the most common signs you or someone you know might need treatment to save a “zombie tooth”:
Anyone of any age can experience a dead tooth that needs saving as a zombie tooth. Children are highly susceptible to this phenomenon because they’re typically very active and therefore more prone to accidents.
When faced with the decision to treat a child’s tooth and extract it, some of our patients opt to extract the tooth. While this is their decision, our Renovo dental team always recommends trying to save a tooth first.
Our teeth and jaw joints are designed to function harmoniously. When our teeth are properly aligned and the jaw joints are healthy, eating and speaking are easier, and we’re less likely to experience pain.
Regrettably, losing a tooth often leads to misalignment—especially if the tooth is not restored with a prosthetic (like a bridge or dental implant).
Thankfully, a Chicago endodontist can perform a regenerative endodontic procedure. Regenerative procedures help save the tooth so patients can keep their teeth for as long as possible. While regenerative endodontics may be an option for adults, it’s best suited for children since their teeth are still developing and have an abundance of healthy stem cells.
The purpose of regenerative endodontic treatment is to prevent an extraction, revive the pulp, protect the root, and help it continue developing.
A regenerative endodontic procedure is a type of tissue engineering that utilizes the stem cells from the developing tooth to promote root development. The affected tooth is opened up and disinfected. Then, the periapical tissues are provoked so that minor bleeding occurs in the canal of the tooth’s root.
Eventually, a blood clot will form. The clot contains mesenchymal stem cells that encourage regeneration. As the child develops, the regeneration procedure will help the root and surrounding tissue to continue to develop, creating a strong, stable tooth.
When a child’s tooth is developing, the walls of the root are very thin. Simply performing a root canal is not enough to save a “zombie tooth.” Because the root walls are thin, the tooth will forever be susceptible to vertical fracture. Therefore, it’s imperative to perform a regenerative procedure on the tooth, something that can strengthen the tooth so that it can withstand normal use into adulthood.
In addition to treating “zombie teeth,” a regenerative endodontic procedure can help patients with teeth that:
· Experience resorption (the progressive loss of certain parts of the tooth due to cells called odontoclasts that normally break down the roots of baby teeth so they can eventually come out)
· Has persistent apical periodontitis (inflammation caused by inadequately eliminating a dental infection) and needs endodontic retreatment after root canal therapy
In addition to regenerative endodontics in Chicago, patients with a dead tooth may also have the option of other procedures, including:
Our Renovo Endo team will discuss the patient’s options and determine which suits their unique needs based on their age and health, the type of tooth involved, and the patient’s dental goals.
If you’ve experienced facial trauma, your teeth should be immediately evaluated by a specialist—especially if you have any symptoms of a dead tooth that needs saving. The sooner we can address the issue, the better! A root canal procedure or regenerative endodontic therapy from the specialists at Renovo Endodontic Studio can help you save a lot of frustration and pain down the road.
Our diverse team of endodontic specialists in Chicago is here to help you. If you or your child have symptoms of a dead tooth, contact us right away for an evaluation.