Your teeth have several layers, and the central layer is known as the nerve or 'pulp'. This is the part of the tooth that is fed by blood vessels. In a sense, you can think of it as the heart of each tooth; if the heart is no longer receiving a healthy flow of blood, it isn't able to survive, and then the rest of the tooth 'dies' too. A dead tooth, sometimes referred to medically as a 'non-vital tooth', is a tooth whose nerve has died completely.

Having a dead tooth in your mouth is serious since it can become a breeding ground for bacteria, which can then spread to the jaw and the surrounding teeth. Unfortunately, people often fail to recognise them. Here are just three things you need to know.

1. Dead Teeth Can Occur Due to Decay or Trauma

When decay reaches the nerve of a tooth and is not treated promptly, the nerve will die. Of course, most people will have a tooth that they know is suffering from decay treated, and it isn't always easy to tell that decay has reached the nerve. Generally, the only way people can understand that a tooth has died due to decay is when a persistent toothache suddenly disappears. This occurs since the cause of the pain has died off, so, unfortunately, many people just believe they were lucky.

However, one thing you can be careful of is trauma. A hard knock to the mouth can sever the blood supply to the nerve, which will result in the nerve dying off. If you've recently taken a sharp blow to the face, visit your dentist to have your teeth checked, even if you don't notice any pain.

2. Dead Teeth Turn Dark

Many people first notice that something is amiss with a tooth when the tooth in question starts to turn yellow, black, or grey. This will quickly become easy to spot since only the affected tooth or teeth will become discoloured, allowing them to stand out from the rest. This is a kind of bruising that has occurred inside the tooth due to dying blood vessels, but, unlike a normal bruise, the discoloration will not go away.

3. Dead Teeth May Cause Abscesses

When a tooth dies, it can still act as a place for bacteria to breed, and this will often lead to an infection. This will produce a bad taste within your mouth and eventually a bad odour as well. You may even notice that pus has started to be expelled from a certain area of your mouth. Any abscess is a cause for concern, so make sure you see a dentist as soon as you can – you don't want the infection to spread.