Root Resorption

What is Root Resorption?

Root resorption is a process that occurs when certain cells around the root surface break down and dissolve the tooth, causing loss of tooth structure.  This commonly and naturally occurs in children’s baby teeth so they will fall out.  However, if this process occurs in adult teeth, it is not normal or common and can lead to complicated issues.  Depending on the type and severity of resorption, treatment choices can vary from removal of resorption cells, root canal treatment, surgical repair, and even extraction.

What Causes Root Resorption?

Although the exact nature of root resorption is not fully understood, there may be several factors that can act as contributors. Trauma may cause damage to the gum ligaments, which causes a disruption to the cells lining a tooth.  Other proposed etiologies include bacterial infection and periodontal therapy. On occasion pressure and tension are normal stressors that can lead to breakdown in tissue, so years after orthodontic treatment resorption on a tooth may occur. Tooth bleaching (both internal and external) as well as extreme teeth grinding and clenching have been found to initiate resorption. Most patients with these risk factors never go on to develop any issues. Sometimes root resorption can occur without any predisposing factors.

What Does Root Resorption Look Like, And Is It Painful?

Often there are no clinical signs of resorption. Some may develop pink spots or discoloration in the tooth, or feel like there is a “hole” in the tooth near the gum line. This is called External Cervical Root Resorption (ECR). Many do not experience any symptoms at all, although some may experience sensitivity in the tooth or gums. Regular check ups and x-rays by your general dentist are helpful to detect resorption. If you or your dentist is suspecting you may have root resorption, it is recommended to contact us to see if it could be treated before worsening. Here at Lehigh Valley Endodontics-Allentown, we use a CBCT (Cone Beam Computed Tomography), which fabricates a 3-D image of the tooth to see, diagnose and treat.

Different Types of Resorption

Internal Resorption

This is confined to the inside of the root canal system, stemming from inflamed pulp tissue.  Some severe cases can gradually erode from the inside to the outside of the tooth.

External Root Resorption

This starts from the outside of the tooth (the majority of the time starting well below the gum line) and can work inwards into the pulp tissue, causing pulpal damage.  The most common type is External Cervical Root Resorption (ECR).

Apical Root Resorption

This is confined at the root end of the tooth. This is a type of External Root Resorption.