What Is Root Resorption?
Root resorption is the process in which the body breaks down and absorbs tissue surrounding a tooth. Although this is a rare phenomenon in adults, root resorption in children is natural and enables the roots of baby teeth to dissolve so that permanent teeth can serve as replacements.
Why Does Resorption Happen in Adults?
We often do not know the cause of root resorption in permanent teeth, but there are several factors which could act as contributors. Pressure and tension are normal stressors that can lead to breakdown in tissue, so years after excessive orthodontic force, a tooth may experience resorption. Likewise, trauma to a tooth may damage gum ligaments, resulting in the beginnings of resorption. Extreme teeth grinding and tooth-bleaching have been found to initiate resorption as well. The good news? Most patients with these risk factors never go on to develop any indicators of root resorption.
What Does Root Resorption Look Like?
It is most common for root resorption to begin on the outside of a tooth near the gum line and work its way inward in a process called external cervical resorption (ECR). Pink spots are a common indicator that ECR is taking place. The eventual effects appear as holes, or cavity-like areas, at the gum line of the tooth.
Not nearly as common as ECR, internal resorption begins in the root of the tooth and is often due to chronic pulp inflammation. Because resorption is usually asymptomatic, most patients are unaware of their condition until well into the resorption process.
How Is Root Resorption Treated?
If the initial pink spots on the tooth’s enamel are spotted and treated in time, no further dental care should be necessary. If, however, the enamel has experienced enough damage that cavities have resulted, root canal therapy may be needed. Extraction and dental implant procedures may be required in cases in which the resorption has become extensive, and the tooth is no longer properly restorable. If the resorption has infected into the pulp, and the tooth is still restorable, a root canal treatment will be necessary. The area of resorption needs to be thoroughly cleaned, and then a restoration can be placed the restore the area. Since the majority of resorbed areas are below the gum line, the gums will often need to be temporarily retracted away from the area to properly clean and restore the tooth. The gums are then sutured back in place over the area.
Since resorption is usually asymptomatic, detecting its presence in the initial stages isn’t always easy. Nonetheless, early treatment is crucial when it comes to saving the tooth, and as endodontists, our primary concern is to save your natural teeth. Call us at the first sign of root decay or resorption, so we can safely and gently provide you with the best possible care for maintaining your oral health well into the future.