Understanding Tooth Resorption
Many of the terms you hear during your dental visit are familiar, even if you need a little explanation from your dentist to fully understand them or how they impact you. Occasionally, though, your dentist may use a term you’ve never heard before, and that can raise alarm bells in your head. A term like “tooth resorption” can be especially concerning because it’s just descriptive enough to give you a picture of what might be happening with no idea if you’ve got it right or what can be done about it. Thankfully, you don’t have to figure it out on your own! We’re here to help you protect and restore your oral health, and a big part of that is helping you understand conditions like tooth resorption.
If Dr. Bentz has mentioned tooth resorption to you, don’t be afraid to ask him any questions you may have; he’ll be happy to take the time to answer all of them! However, we know that it’s not always easy to come up with questions on the spot, and absorbing a lot of information at once can be difficult. To help with that, we’ve put together a guide you can access any time on tooth resorption and what it may mean for you.
What is tooth resorption?
Much like it sounds, tooth resorption is a condition where your body begins to break down and absorb your tooth. Tooth resorption is split into two types: internal and external tooth resorption. During internal tooth resorption, the tooth begins breaking down from the inside until it’s hollow. The internal structure of your tooth contains the blood vessels and nerves that keep it strong and hydrated, so this weakens your tooth and makes it more vulnerable to injury and decay. External tooth resorption occurs when the protective coating around the outside of your tooth root begins breaking down, making the tooth more vulnerable to decay and infection. It can happen on its own or along with internal tooth resorption.
While tooth resorption sounds like a major process that you’d likely notice, it can be completely symptomless, with no pain or other signs that there’s something wrong until it’s too late. This is particularly true of external tooth resorption. In other cases, though, symptoms can include a toothache, swelling and redness around the gums, an unusually brittle tooth, or a tooth that has turned a distinct, light pink color. Eventually, both types of the condition will lead to tooth loss without treatment, so identifying and treating it early is essential.
What causes it?
Tooth resorption is a natural process in baby teeth, as root resorption makes room for adult teeth to form, but it can happen in adult teeth for a myriad of reasons. The most well-known cause is an injury to the teeth, jaws, or mouth. When an injury like this occurs, it’s normal for your body to mount an immune response, but sometimes the body overreacts and rejects your tooth, identifying it as foreign and attacking it like it would an infection. In this sense, tooth resorption often acts like an autoimmune condition. This reaction can also occur because of an untreated cavity or infection in the tooth or surrounding gums or because of an injury to the periodontal ligament that holds your tooth in your jaw.
In some cases, dentists simply aren’t sure why tooth resorption happens, but there are a few known risk factors. Anything that puts extensive pressure on your teeth for a long time or shifts their position in your jaw can increase your likelihood of experiencing tooth resorption down the road. This includes issues like teeth shifting around after tooth loss and bruxism, which is when you habitually clench or grind your teeth. Additionally, orthodontics and certain tooth bleaching methods can also raise your future risk. That said, the benefits of treatments like orthodontics often far outweigh the risks, so don’t let this discourage you from seeking out orthodontic treatment! Every treatment has pros and cons, so you and Dr. Bentz can always take the time to discuss what those are for you before you decide on any treatment.
What can be done to prevent it?
While tooth resorption sounds complicated and happens beneath the surface where you can’t see it, there are still several ways you can reduce your likelihood of experiencing it. Since dental injuries are such a huge cause of tooth resorption, one of the best things you can do to prevent it is to simply wear a mouth guard during contact sports to prevent injuries to your teeth and gums that a fall or blow to the face could cause. If you do suffer dental trauma or a major blow to your teeth or jaws, it’s also always best to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bentz just in case. Even if a hard blow to your teeth or jaw doesn’t do damage that’s immediately visible, it could have still damaged your tooth roots, so it’s important to get an X-ray to make sure your teeth are OK.
You can get tooth resorption even if you take great care of your teeth, but practicing good oral hygiene is still incredibly important for this issue because it helps prevent cavities and infections of your teeth or gums that could trigger tooth resorption. Visiting your dentist every six months is also an essential part of preventing oral health issues and identifying any problems early. An X-ray is the best way to spot tooth resorption, so a regular dental X-ray during your routine appointment can be the key to getting an early diagnosis that saves your tooth! Additionally, it’s also wise to address bruxism, which can be done using a nightguard, stress management, orthodontics, or Botox treatments. Doing this protects your teeth from injury and will help lower your chances of getting tooth resorption, but the best treatment is different for everyone, so don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Bentz about your options.
Can it be treated? If so, how?
Yes! When root resorption is caught early enough, there are a few ways Dr. Bentz may be able to save your tooth. The first is simply by treating any cavity, infection, or injury that is causing the tooth resorption. In some cases, such as when the condition is progressing slowly and hasn’t done much damage, he may even be able to stop its progression and leave the tooth as it is or reverse some of the damage. Other times, a root canal and dental crown can be instrumental in saving your tooth. Dr. Bentz may perform the root canal on its own or pair it with other treatments to address issues like infections. Tooth resorption does eventually lead to tooth loss, however, so if your tooth is too severely damaged, Dr. Bentz may need to extract it and replace it with a tooth replacement option like a dental implant.
Are there any alternative options?
Everyone’s case is unique, so your treatment options will vary based on details like the severity and cause of your condition. Dr. Bentz will be able to walk you through all of your options, explaining each and giving you any recommendations he may have. If you lose your tooth due to tooth resorption, modern dentistry ensures that you still have plenty of options for tooth replacement! Dental implants are generally seen as the best tooth replacement option out there, but you can also choose a bridge or partial dentures.
Will it happen again?
Tooth resorption isn’t a common occurrence, and there’s no evidence that having had tooth resorption once makes you any more or less likely to get it again. This means it’s not more likely, but it’s also not impossible. Just like any other oral health issue, the key to ensuring it doesn’t happen again is to take preventive measures. This means building tooth-healthy habits like wearing a mouth guard during sports, practicing great oral hygiene, and talking to Dr. Bentz about addressing issues like bruxism. You should also make sure you visit Dr. Bentz every six months for your regular dental evaluation, as keeping up-to-date with these appointments is a huge part of catching tooth resorption and other oral health issues early — plus treating the issue is much easier. These habits are simple and don’t take a lot of time out of your day, but they could save your teeth!
Have a few questions? Reach out to the Bentz dental team for help!
Just like any oral health issue that can lead to tooth loss, tooth resorption shouldn’t be taken lightly — but it isn’t a guarantee that you’ll lose your tooth. Identifying and treating it quickly could save your tooth, so it’s important to visit your dentist regularly and know what to look for at home. If you’d like to learn more about tooth resorption or what treatment options might be right for you, feel free to schedule a consultation with Dr. Bentz at any time.