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Tooth resorption is when the immune system breaks down a tooth, essentially eating away at it. This causes it to be non-restorable, indicating extraction.
While tooth resorption isn’t common, it happens from time to time.
Resorption can occur in both adult and primary (baby) teeth, but it is normal and not usually harmful when it occurs in baby teeth. Without the normal resorption of baby teeth, they won’t fall out easily and make space for the adult teeth to erupt.
Tooth resorption can typically occur in three ways: internal resorption, external resorption, or a combination of the two.
External resorption occurs from the outside of the tooth, where the cementum is located.
It’s common and has three main classifications (depending on the appearance of the X-ray and clinical symptoms):
Internal resorption is much less prevalent than external resorption and occurs from the inside of the tooth.
It is typically asymptomatic, and most patients are unaware of the condition until an X-ray is taken. It occurs from blunt trauma or from a previously done deep filling that irritates the nerve.
An X-ray will show dark spots inside the pulp of the tooth where the resorption occurs.
There are numerous causes of resorption, but the most common occurs after a trauma or dental surgery.
Other causes of tooth resorption include the following:
According to the American Association of Endodontics, the location of trauma (or damage to the tooth) and its supporting structures determine the type of resorption.
Most people are completely unaware that they have tooth resorption until it becomes a severe condition. Resorption is usually diagnosed when dark spots are found around the tooth root during a routine X-ray.
Many people don’t report pain when they are first diagnosed with tooth resorption. However, this depends on the severity and the location of the resorption.
For example, some people notice sensitivity if the resorption is near the root surface. Other common symptoms include:
Tooth resorption is managed by preserving the affected parts of the tooth.
If an external factor causes resorption, sometimes treatment is needed. This may include a night guard or removing an orthodontic appliance.
Depending on the severity of resorption, several types of dental treatment are available to preserve the tooth, including:
Endodontists can place calcium hydroxide for younger teeth with immature roots to limit the amount of root resorption. The goal is to stop the progression of root resorption and allow it to continue to form normally.
If the root is completely formed, it usually requires a surgical endodontic procedure to remove harmful, damaged cells so the resorption does not continue.
For teeth that show early resorption, a dentist sometimes performs a small surgery to remove the damaged cells. A root canal and crown can help preserve the natural tooth for more severe cases.
In cases of severe root resorption, the tooth may need to be extracted and replaced with a dental implant. This is the most effective way to restore the function and esthetics of the affected tooth.
Tooth resorption is diagnosed through dental X-rays and a clinical examination.
X-rays like bitewings or periapical radiographs can be used to diagnose tooth resorption.
Sometimes it’s difficult to determine the type of resorption, which is important in determining the best type of treatment. In these cases, a 3D Cone Beam X-ray can be used to visualize the condition better.
A clinical exam for resorption may include a visual inspection or both a visual and an endodontic examination. This exam uses hot and cold temperature changes to examine the tooth.
To prevent tooth resorption, you must do the following:
Early diagnosis of tooth resorption can help avoid long-term dental problems. If your dentist notices any signs of tooth resorption, they may want to see you sooner for follow-ups and monitor the tooth for any changes.
Tooth resorption is a condition in which the tooth structure is damaged or destroyed. There are different ways to manage tooth resorption, but it's best to prevent it in the first place.
If you notice any signs of tooth resorption, make sure to see your dentist immediately so they can diagnose and treat it as soon as possible.
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