What is a root cavity and how can you prevent it?

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Tooth decay on the root surface of teeth may also be called root cavities, root decay, or root caries. It is a potentially detrimental oral health problem that needs immediate treatment khổng lồ prevent severe dental damage. In this blog, you can learn more about what root decay is, why it happens, how it’s connected to gum disease và soft tissue recession, & what treatments are available khổng lồ repair your teeth & soft tissue. If you’re concerned you have decay on your tooth’s root surface, liên hệ your dentist in Greenbelt, MD as soon as possible to lớn begin repairs.

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Tooth Decay on Root Surfaces


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Root caries on lateral incisor, canine and first bicuspid


While many people are fortunate enough to lớn have tough tooth enamel that is seemingly cavity resistant, few people have cavity resistant root surfaces. The root surface does not have a hard, protective enamel covering that is as thick and durable as the crown of the tooth. When gums recede below the enamel line or pull away from the tooth, the root surface is exposed. This unprotected tooth structure is much thinner and more vulnerable to tooth decay. Root caries can only occur if the root of the tooth is exposed through gum tissue recession or loss of attachment between the gum tissue and the tooth roots. The spaces between teeth và gum tissue are called the periodontal pockets, và healthy pockets are shallow & sit close to the tooth. When the periodontal pocket depths increase, it allows teeth lớn shift & bacteria và plaque to accumulate between the teeth và gums. This can lead to lớn gum disease, root caries, tooth abscess, & a number of other oral health concerns. Gum tissue recession và increased periodontal pocket depth typical occur due lớn untreated gum disease.

Causes of Root Caries và Gum Recession

There are many reasons you may experience root caries or gum tissue recession. Some of the most common include:

Age – as people age, their gums typically recede exposing root surfaces.Periodontal disease – also known as gum disease, this oral health concern increases the depth of periodontal pockets & leads to lớn soft tissue recession, giving plaque và bacteria access lớn tooth roots.Genetics – periodontal disease, age-related gum recession, & weak tooth enamel often run in families.Diabetes – can weaken the immune system và increase soft tissue inflammation, leading lớn more severe & difficult to treat gum disease và soft tissue recession.Crooked teeth – misaligned teeth are more difficult lớn clean thoroughly & can increase your risk for gum disease.Tobacco use – smoking cigarettes or cigars, dipping, using chewing tobacco, or any kind of tobacco use can damage teeth, weaken enamel, cause try mouth, và increase risk for gum disease.Medications – many over the counter & prescription medications are known lớn cause dry mouth, which increases risk for all types of oral health concerns, including gum disease và caries.Trauma – injury khổng lồ gums or teeth can allow bacteria to lớn accumulate within cracks in the tooth, causing them lớn grow larger and spread below the gum line.

Symptoms of Root Decay

In some cases, patients don’t have symptoms at all related to lớn root decay. In other cases, patients may experience a range of symptoms, including:

An exposed root surface frequently becomes sensitive to heat, cold, and sweet foods and drinks.You may experience a dull, constant toothache or more severe, sharp tooth pain in the affected area.Pain when chewing.Swelling or redness in the gum tissue around one tooth.Tooth that feels loose.Break or crack in tooth enamel.Discoloration in tooth enamel.Gum tissue recession.Infection or sores in the gum tissue around the affected tooth.

Treatments for Root Caries & Gum Recession

The appropriate treatment of receding gums và root caries depends on the reason for soft tissue recession & the extent & severity of the tooth decay. Some of the most common treatments recommended for decay in tooth roots & gum recession include:

Periodontal Therapy – if the gum recession is caused by periodontal disease, the patient will need periodontal treatment from a dental hygienist, which usually starts with scaling và root planning. Plaque and tartar are removed from the surfaces of the tooth’s root. Periodontal treatment can help gum tissues heal & reattach lớn the tooth surface.Surgical Grafting – If gum recession is advanced, a gum graft where the gum tissue has receded may be indicated. Grafts may help protect the root surface from sensitivity and further decay.
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Tooth colored fillings can repair this root caries before it becomes too advanced


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Root caries on a lower molar


Antibiotics – we may use oral and/or topical antibiotics lớn treat infection in the gum tissue và tooth abscess. Antibiotic treatment may also be an essential part of the periodontal therapy process khổng lồ reduce the amount of oral bacteria that produce acidic plaque that can cause damage to lớn soft tissue as well as weakening or decaying the enamel.Root Canal Therapy – when decay on tooth roots reaches the interior of the tooth (the pulp), where the tooth’s nerve is housed, we may need lớn perform a root canal to remove the damaged dental pulp & save the tooth from extraction.Tooth Extraction và Replacement – if a tooth can’t be repaired, due khổng lồ extensive damage from root caries, we may need to lớn recommend dental extraction và tooth replacement. We’ll always bởi vì our utmost khổng lồ save your natural teeth, but we offer a variety of tooth replacement solutions khổng lồ ensure your smile is complete và functions perfectly.Improved Preventive Care – no matter what treatment plan we recommend to lớn address gum tissue recession and cavities on the tooth roots, an excellent oral hygiene routine at home, regular teeth cleanings by a dental hygienist, & dental examinations every six months with your dentist are essential parts of ongoing maintenance. Our dental hygienists teach dentistry patients how lớn brush và floss teeth in order khổng lồ clean tooth surfaces and gums thoroughly and prevent further gum recession. This will not repair existing damage, but it will, hopefully, prevent additional gum recession.

Frequently Asked Questions About Root Caries

Below, we’ve included the answers lớn some of the questions we hear from patients most often after they find out they have a root cavity that needs to be treated. If you don’t see the answer khổng lồ your question here, we’re happy to lớn talk about it in the office during a consultation or if you give our dental team a call, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

What Happens if I vì chưng Nothing?

Oral health concerns are insidious, which means that, without appropriate treatment, they are likely lớn become more serious over time. Many people think that, if they wait, oral health issues will clear up on their own. This is simply not the case. Instead of clearing up, a cavity on your tooth root will get larger, spread deeper into the tooth, start impacting surrounding teeth, and it can even lead to whole body health issues stemming from the untreated infection. It’s essential to treat cavities và gum disease in early stages lớn avoid unnecessary oral health issues.

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Is Tooth Decay on Tooth Roots the Same as a Dental Abscess?

These are actually two different oral health concerns, but the two may be related. Decay on the tooth roots may lead lớn infection in the surrounding tissue called an abscess. Tooth abscesses can also occur due to lớn untreated gum disease, tooth damage, or a weakened dental restoration that allows plaque and bacteria to lớn accumulate. Tooth abscesses are very painful, and they can cause a number of oral and overall health concerns without treatment.

Do I Need Gum Disease Treatment và Cavity Treatment?

If your tooth root decay happened due khổng lồ soft tissue recession as a result of untreated gum disease, it’s essential lớn treat both the cavity & the periodontal disease to ensure your oral health is fully restored. Without treatment for both, you are still at risk for developing root caries in the future.

Do I Need a Root Canal?

Root canal therapy is necessary only if the tooth decay reaches the innermost layer of the tooth called the pulp where the tooth’s nerve is housed. When this happens, we can perform a root canal khổng lồ remove the damaged pulp tissue và refill the tooth with a biocompatible substance. This procedure has a bad reputation, but in many cases, it’s the only way khổng lồ save a severely damaged or decayed tooth from extraction.

Will I Need to lớn Have My Tooth Extracted?

In some cases, tooth extraction is necessary. However, we will vì our utmost lớn retain your natural teeth, including removing decay, performing root canal therapy, treating gum disease, và even placing soft tissue grafts when necessary. If we vì chưng need lớn extract your tooth, despite our best efforts, we will partner with you to plan for tooth replacement as part of your treatment process, so you’ll have a full, healthy smile again as soon as possible.

Meet the McCarl Dental Group Team

Do you still have some questions about tooth root decay or gum tissue recession that weren’t answered here? The McCarl Dental Group team would be happy to help you. With more than nine decades offering dentistry services for Greenbelt, MD dental patients, our dentists and dental team have treated generations of family in our community. Their knowledge, expertise, and genuine determination to help Greenbelt families smile make McCarl Dental Group the go-to dental office for all of your dentistry needs in one convenient location.


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