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. 

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 is a process where the body breaks down tissues surrounding the tooth and absorbs this tissue. Stated more simply, the body starts eating its own tooth.

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. 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.

Often root resorption seems to be caused by an injury or trauma to the tooth. As a result, you can have inflammation, which can lead your body’s immune system to dissolve the tooth’s root structure. Sometimes this trauma can be caused by non-professional tooth whitening, rough DIY dental care, or poorly-done orthodontics.

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, root resorption isn’t 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, which is the second-hardest tissue in the human body, after enamel.

Signs and Symptoms of Root Resorption

Root resorption doesn’t always present obvious symptoms, but here are some signs to watch for:

  • Pain or toothache, especially stemming from inside the tooth or the root.
  • Swelling gums and redness.
  • Loosening of the teeth.
  • Pink or darker spots on the tooth.
  • Teeth shifting, making irregular spaces between them.
  • Cavity-like holes at or near the gum line.
  • Brittleness of teeth as they become prone to chipping or cracking.

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 root resorption you’re experiencing. Your dental team will most likely need to take images like x-rays and conduct a thorough examination. The images will help your dentist see signs of the resorption’s progress, as well as other changes to your oral health.

Sometimes, if you’re experiencing root resorption, a root canal is the best treatment. It can be a great alternative to an extraction

If the tooth is already too damaged, however, extraction may be the only option. 

A skilled endodontist strives to save the natural tooth whenever it is possible, so they can restore your oral health and wellbeing.

A crown may or may not be necessary after a root canal. If the tooth structure is still strong, a crown is less likely to be needed. If the root canal is necessary because of resorption, your endodontist or restorative dentist may recommend a protective crown depending on the damage.

Seek Professional Dental Care

The earlier you’re able to get understand and diagnosed what is root resorption, the better the outcome will be for your tooth. If you see any of the symptoms we’ve discussed in this blog post, make an appointment with your dentist right away.

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 due to root resorption or other forms of dental trauma, 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 or to learn how to request a referral from your general dentist.