Tooth Resorption - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


What if a dental expert tells you that you're experiencing tooth resorption? If so, your mind will get filled with a slew of questions. However, the most important question will be - what exactly is tooth resorption? Though an uncommon dental terminology, the condition isn't as mysterious as it appears. Resorption occurs when the body, on account of a traumatic injury, rejects the tooth as a self-defense mechanism. 

To be specific, resorption means the inflammation, pain, and loss of tooth dentin (it's an inner tissue beneath the enamel) or cementum (the outer material that covers the tooth's roots). Let's understand the two major types of resorption and the treatment options thereon. 

What's tooth resorption? 

It's a common kind of dental irritation or injury that results in the loss of a part or some parts of the tooth. Resorption could impact several parts of the tooth, including root, dentin, cementum, and interior pulp. 

The problem usually begins from the outer surface of the tooth and slowly moves inwards. As well as losing a part or some parts of the tooth, you might experience swelling in your gums. Pink or dark spots are other signs of the problem. Still, the symptoms aren't easily noticed. 

Tooth resorption could result in infections, tooth loss, crooked teeth, and other issues that might cause lasting damage to your jaw, gums, and teeth. If you think you're experiencing any such symptom, schedule an appointment with a dentist.

What are the types of tooth resorption? 

Depending on the area of tooth loss, resorption is classified externally and internally. Detecting external resorption is easier as it occurs on the outside of the tooth.

What's internal resorption? 

A dentist will diagnose internal tooth resorption when the cementum or dentin gets absorbed into your tooth canal, leading to the inflammation of the tooth's outer and inner surfaces. When your tooth sustains an injury, its tissues get inflamed and absorbed into your tooth's root. The condition subsequently leads to a hollow tooth, which turns weak and stays vulnerable to decay and damage. Common tooth injuries that can trigger internal resorption include exposure to chemicals or heat, bacterial attack on the pulp, and trauma.

If you see a reddish tinge to a tooth, it's the first indication of internal resorption. Based on this first sign, the dentist will order x-rays or dental images of the hollow tooth to identify lesions in the infected area.

What's external resorption? 

It's similar to internal tooth resorption and can, at times, be challenging to detect. External resorption can also occur concurrently with internal tooth resorption. A traumatic teeth injury mostly causes external resorption. Other causes include sudden orthodontic movement of your dentures (such as braces) and infection in your gum space in and around teeth. When the outside crown or root gets damaged, it could result in tooth loss, shifting teeth, infections, and other jaw and mouth issues.

What's normal dental resorption?

Resorption can bring about lasting damage to your permanent teeth. However, in baby teeth or primary teeth, resorption tends to be a normal part of the denture development process. While a child grows, the roots of his/her baby teeth pass through the resorption process to make way for his/her permanent teeth.

However, resorption of baby teeth differs from bottle rot, a condition wherein your child's teeth get coated with sugar due to sweetened liquids. Such a situation occurs when parents leave their small children with a bottle of sweetened milk or formula overnight.

What are the causes of resorption?

A tooth becomes resorbed due to many reasons. External resorption is the result of injuries to teeth and the mouth. Such a condition causes swelling and loss of tissue and bone on and around the teeth.

Injuries may pop up due to the prolonged usage of orthodontic equipment such as braces or from teeth bleaching or grinding. 

In many cases, internal resorption turns up due to a tooth injury or swollen gums caused by an untreated cavity. Still, the exact reasons for tooth resorption aren't properly understood. 

Tooth resorption could bring about a slew of complications including:

  • Crooked teeth
  • Infections
  • Tooth discoloration and weakness
  • Chipped teeth
  • Loss of tooth
  • Cavity-like holes
  • Pain
  • Recession of roots

In case you don't like the looks of your dentures, check a reliable cosmetic dentist after resorption treatment. 

What are the signs/symptoms of tooth resorption?

Resorption doesn't necessarily present clear signs of the condition. In most cases, the individual may not experience resorption for years. Yet, symptoms show up as resorption worsens.

Resorption symptoms:

  • Pain originating from the crown, root, or inside of your tooth
  • Redness and swelling of gums
  • Pinkish or dark discoloration
  • Unusual spacing between teeth 
  • Cavity-like holes in teeth
  • Brittleness and chipping of teeth 

How is teeth resorption diagnosed?

The way diagnosis is carried depends on the part of your tooth that's impacted.

In the case of internal resorption, a dental expert will notice dark spots within your dentures that get visible in x-rays. If this is the case, the expert will seek your dental history to review past injuries and/or procedures that might have impacted your tooth.

The dental expert will physically examine your tooth. This includes touching with cold and heat and taking x-rays for a better understanding of the problem. 

External resorption is generally more visible. So, it's easier to diagnose. The process is similar to internal resorption diagnosis.

How is dental resorption treated?

Dental resorption treatment depends on the part of the tooth that's affected and the extent of the damage.

No matter the reason, the treatment aims at preserving the remaining parts of the tooth that have started to experience loss. Treatment begins with the removal of the damaged parts of the tooth to avoid the worsening of the problem.

Tooth resorption treatment includes:

  • Root canal
  • Gum surgery 
  • Crown
  • Tooth extraction

Resorption often impacts the way your teeth look. People usually go for braces or veneers to fortify their appearance.

Concluding words

Resorption is normal among children. However, dental resorption in adults is a cause of concern. While resorption may take years before the symptoms show up, you must take proper note of anything unusual with your dentures. Discoloration, pain, inflammation, tooth loss, and unusual spacing could be signs of resorption.

Tooth resorption can be easily prevented by periodic visits to dental experts for examinations and cleaning. They'll detect the early signs and tender proper treatment to avoid the worsening of the condition.

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