How To Fix a Dead Tooth At Home

Written & Reviewed by Dr David Chen

It is impossible to revive a dead tooth at home but you can at least correct the grey discoloration with OTC teeth whitening products.

Treatment for the non-vital tooth nerve involves seeing a dentist but once that has been completed, it still needs cosmetic treatment. Necrotic teeth are often discolored and can benefit from whitening and veneers or crowns to mask the unsightly color.

We will explain what all of that means.

Dead teeth cannot be revived

Once a tooth has died, it cannot be brought back to life regardless of what home remedy you try on it. Even your dentist has no means of reviving a dead tooth because a cardinal rule of life is that no dead thing has ever come back to life.

Essentially when teeth die, they undergo an irreversible biological process.

  • The blood supply within the tooth slowly disintegrates.
  • The tooth becomes disconnected from the main blood supply.
  • Dead teeth no longer receive nutrients and begin to discolor.
tooth abscess

While you cannot return the tooth back to a vital status, there are treatment options for the dead nerve. It is important to treat the necrotic nerve because it can be a source for pain or become a cesspool for future infections.

Treatment for necrotic tooth nerve

All treatment for a non-vital nerve within a necrotic tooth requires seeing a dentist.

  • Root canal therapy. The most conservative option would be to perform a root canal treatment since it leaves the tooth superstructure intact. This procedure extirpates the dead nerve thus removing all potential sources for future infections.
  • Tooth extraction. A more extreme option would be to extract the entire dead tooth. This procedure is only done if the tooth is considered non-restorable. That can happen if the tooth is fractured or the infection is so large that it cannot be saved.
root canal steps diagram

As you can see with all of these options, the treatment is very physical in nature. Most at home remedies for toothaches and etc rely on topical application of medicaments. Unfortunately, topical medicines have no effect on a nerve that has died.


Despite the two treatment options described above, there is an exception which is when no treatment is rendered. Yes, you read that correctly. Sometimes a dead tooth can go without any treatment at all.

How can that be? Well, sometimes a tooth can die naturally on its own and doesn’t get discovered until many years later. In these cases, the canal within the tooth can become obliterated over time.

What that means for you is that it is now impossible to do the root canal. Your body sort of did its own natural root canal and closed off the nerve chamber within itself.

Nonetheless, even with this, we still recommend cosmetic treatment for the tooth because the discoloration will still remain and get worse over time.

Fix dead tooth color at home

After the nerve treatment has been completed by your dentist, you may proceed to fix or correct the discoloration of your dead tooth at home. Options for this would be using OTC teeth whitening products to bleach the tooth and attempt to return it to its original tooth color.

Why whiten a dead tooth at home:

  • When teeth die, they will slowly begin to discolor to a grey or even black color.
  • Severely discolored necrotic teeth are a cosmetic nightmare.
  • At home OTC options are less expensive than professional ones by your dentist.

OTC at home whitening products:

  • Teeth whitening pen. The bleaching pen is one of the most effective option for whitening dead teeth because it is usually just a single tooth that is affected. The pen allows you to bleach a single tooth which helps it match the adjacent teeth in color.
  • Whitening strips. The strips can work but they will whiten all of the teeth that the strips touch.
  • Whitening toothpaste. The most effective whitening toothpastes will be the ones which contain hydrogen peroxide in them. Most toothpastes only use abrasives for external stain removal. The ones with peroxide can oxidize intrinsic stains.
  • Whitening mouthwash. Probably not the most effective but you can give these mouthwashes a try. Just make sure they contain peroxide so it can chemically bleach your teeth.
  • OTC trays with LED light. This option can work but once again and hopefully the light will accelerate your bleaching progress.

One point we wish to emphasize is that for bleaching a dead tooth, the goal differs from regular teeth whitening.

  • Regular whitening goal is to lighten the color of all of your teeth.
  • Non-vital tooth whitening goal is to lighten a single tooth so it can match the adjacent teeth.
colgate optic white pen - uncapped

Therefore, products which whiten all of your teeth can be used but the more effective ones will be able to target a single tooth. For this reason along we recommend the bleaching pen as the first option.

Professional whitening alternative

In lieu of at home OTC whitening products, you can always opt for professional take home or in office teeth whitening.

Professional options for whitening a discolored dead tooth:

  • Take home trays. These are custom made whitening trays by your dentist which fit your teeth and your mouth only. The bleaching gel provided in this take home kit will be significantly more potent than any OTC product that you can get your hands on.
  • In office session. This is roughly a one hour teeth whitening session done at your dentist office. The bleaching gel used for this treatment can range from 30-40% in hydrogen peroxide strength which is the most potent that you can legally use.
  • Internal bleaching. A necrotic tooth which has had root canal treatment is a candidate for internal tooth whitening. This procedure is different from the usual types of whitening which do so externally. By bleaching internally you can whiten the tooth from the inside out.

The advantage is that these products tend to come in a higher concentration of peroxide so it is more potent and can bleach your teeth a lot faster.

The disadvantage is that while they are more effective, they do tend to cost much more than OTC solutions. That is especially true if you compare the cost of a teeth whitening pen to an in office bleaching session, the latter costs multiples of the former.

Crowns & Veneers for dead teeth

There is a limit to how far teeth whitening can fix the discoloration of a dead tooth. If all else fails, the next step is to cover the entire grey tooth with either a crown or a veneer. Essentially you’re putting a piece of porcelain over it to mask the darkened color.

  • Dental crown. A tooth cap will cover over the entire tooth in a 360 degree fashion. This is recommended if you had a root canal done on it.
  • Porcelain veneer. A veneer is a more conservative option that can be used if a root canal was not done on the tooth. This option will only shave the front half (180 degrees) of the tooth which is much more conservative.
Dental veneer on stone model top view showing putting it on the tooth
Placing veneer on tooth

Image above shows a demonstration of what a dental veneer looks like. It’s literally a thin piece of porcelain that covers the front surface of your teeth. It is used to change the shape and color. As for your situation, it is the latter that we would be using this for.


Just to reiterate, there are two phases to approaching dead teeth. The first is to address the necrotic nerve within the tooth and the second is to cosmetically mask the grey discoloration.

How to fix dead teeth at home:

  1. See a dentist to get the necrotic nerve assessed.
  2. Try at home whitening to whiten the discolored grey dead tooth.
  3. If OTC products fail, see a dentist for professional cosmetic options.

Hopefully that helps you better understand what you need to do when your tooth has died.


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