What is Root Resorption?

Key Takeaways:

    Understanding Root Resorption: Root resorption is the process where the body’s cells break down tooth roots, typically to facilitate the transition from baby teeth to permanent teeth.

    Causes and Symptoms: Several factors contribute to root resorption, including trauma, orthodontic treatment, infections, and genetic predisposition. Symptoms can include tooth sensitivity, gum swelling, loose teeth, and discoloration.

    Treatment and Prevention: Treatment options vary depending on the severity of root resorption, ranging from monitoring in mild cases to root canal therapy or surgical intervention for more advanced cases.

When one of our patients is experiencing root resorption, sometimes they ask, “So… what is root resorption?” And no wonder! This isn’t something that’s commonly talked about outside of the dental world. 

Root resorption, though lesser known, remains an important threat to dental health. It occurs when tooth roots break down and absorb into the body – which could ultimately result in their loss if left untreated.

We hope this article helps improve your awareness of oral health. We believe an informed patient is an empowered patient.

Of course, nothing in this article is a substitute for professional dental care. With so many variables, every aspect of dental care is specific to each patient.

In this blog post, we’ll tell you what root resorption is, what can cause it, the signs and symptoms of it, and how to treat it.

What is Root Resorption?

Root resorption refers to the body’s cells breaking down the roots of teeth to make way for permanent ones, often making the transition easier for baby teeth. But when this process affects permanent teeth instead, it can create significant dental issues and pose health risks.

There are different areas within your mouth where the resorption may start.

  • Internal resorption – this starts at the inner surface of the tooth’s root.
  • External resorption – this starts at an outer surface where the root connects to the jawbone. This is the most common form of resorption.

With internal resorption, the inside of your tooth is absorbed into the root canal therapy Charlotte, NC. If this progresses, it can leave the inside of your tooth hollow. On the other hand, external resorption causes the outside portions of the root to deteriorate. Both are the result of inflammation, and the sooner you treat them, the better. They’re both quite destructive, and they can eventually lead to tooth loss.

A Few Causes of Root Resorption

We don’t always know what causes root resorption in adults. Fortunately, it is a rare condition in adults, though it is healthy and natural in growing children.

Many factors can contribute to root resorption cases, including:


Traumatic injuries caused by accidents or injuries can lead to root resorption, as the impact damages root structures, prompting the body to dissolve them naturally.

Orthodontic Treatment

Orthodontic treatments such as braces or Invisalign may inadvertently cause root resorption; this is more likely in instances of prolonged or aggressive force application from orthodontic treatments such as braces.


Infections in the tissues surrounding teeth or in untreated cavities or periodontal disease can trigger root resorption.


Certain individuals may be predisposed genetically to root resorption, making them more prone to its symptoms.

Baby Root Resorption

Children experience root resorption when they lose their baby teeth. When the baby tooth is ready to fall out, the brain and body give a signal allowing the bone between the baby tooth and permanent tooth to waste away. The baby tooth’s root also wastes away, and then the tooth falls out. This is natural and allows space for permanent teeth.

However, it is not common or beneficial when it happens to adults. It may be the result of tooth nerve damage, gum damage, or trauma to the tooth. Chronic grinding and other low-level damage may also contribute to root resorption.

Root resorption can affect:

  • The tooth’s interior pulp.
  • The root.
  • Cementum, which covers the tooth’s root.
  • Dentin, is the second-hardest tissue in the human body, after enamel.

Signs and Symptoms of Root Resorption

At first, root resorption may progress slowly without manifesting noticeable symptoms; however, as it worsens individuals may begin experiencing:

  • Tooth Sensitivity: Sensitivity to hot, cold, or pressure on an affected tooth.
  • Swelling: Swelling or inflammation in the gums around the affected tooth.
  • Loose Teeth: As roots resorb over time, teeth may become loose or mobile.
  • Discoloration: Caused by internal root resorption should always be seen immediately by a dentist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

If you notice any of these symptoms, talk with your dentist immediately. Even if resorption isn’t happening, all of these signs indicate some kind of oral health issue.

Since someone may experience resorption but may be asymptomatic (as in, not having any of those symptoms outlined above), it is crucial to maintain a regular schedule of oral health examinations and professional cleanings. Since you probably won’t feel any pain when you’re experiencing resorption, it’s extremely critical to get x-rays at your regular dental visits, because that’s where your dentist can detect these lesions. Also, consistently following at-home hygiene recommendations like brushing and flossing daily may help prevent root resorption from happening.

Sometimes resorption may contribute to other complications, such as: 

  • Infection or inflammation
  • Crooked teeth or misalignments
  • Tooth discoloration and weakness
  • Chips and fractures in the tooth
  • Cavity-like holes
  • Tooth loss
  • Recession at the Roots
  • Pain

Keep in mind there may be other causes for these oral health issues, so always discuss any concerns with your dental health provider.

After you receive treatment for resorption, you may also want to schedule an appointment with a cosmetic dentist. Resorption can negatively impact the appearance of your teeth, but there are lots of great solutions out there to make your smile bright again, like cosmetic crowns, veneers, and implants.

According to Colgate, other than children, root resorption is most common in people between 21 and 30, especially women. It is also more common among people who have systemic diseases or endocrine disorders. In rare cases, it can be the result of pressure from a tumor. 

Always keep your dentist informed about any health conditions you experience, since sometimes the condition or treatment may have oral health implications to watch out for.

Root Resorption Treatment

Treatment varies depending on the cause and severity of the case. Your dental team will most likely need to take images like X-rays and thoroughly examine. The images will help your dentist see signs of the resorption’s progress, as well as other changes to your oral health.

The effectiveness of root resorption treatment depends upon its severity and extent of damage to affected teeth. Below are some possible approaches:

  • Monitoring: For mild cases, your dentist may decide to observe closely before intervening immediately.
  • Root Canal Therapy: If the pulp of your tooth has been compromised by root resorption, root canal therapy may be required to extract any damaged tissues and seal off its root canals.
  • Intervention by Surgery: For advanced cases where root resorption has compromised tooth structures significantly, surgical interventions such as root resection or extraction may be necessary to repair them.
  • Adjustments to Orthodontic Treatment Plans: Should orthodontic treatments have caused root resorption, changes may need to be made to their plans to minimize further damage.

Seek Professional Dental Care

Root resorption is a potentially severe dental condition that needs prompt diagnosis and treatment to avoid further complications. By becoming familiar with its causes, symptoms, and available solutions, individuals can take proactive steps toward maintaining their dental health. If you suspect or experience related symptoms, don’t delay in consulting your dentist.

The team at Ballantyne Endodontics feels privileged to help Charlotte-area residents maintain their natural teeth. Natural teeth help maintain balance and a healthy structure within the mouth. Nothing looks and feels like your own teeth!

If your dentist says you need a root canal or other endodontic treatment, we urge you to ask for a referral to an endodontist like us. We are dental specialists who focus on tooth restoration and root canal treatments.

If you live in or near Charlotte and need endodontic care, contact the team at Ballantyne Endodontics for a consultation.