A man is brushing his teeth in a bathroom

Exposed Tooth Root: Causes And Symptoms

If your teeth suddenly feel sensitive and you’re experiencing pain or discomfort while eating something hot or cold, you might not associate that with exposed tooth roots. But tooth sensitivity can be an early sign of a tooth root being exposed. Find out how to recognize and treat this condition, so your teeth feel healthy and pain-free again!

What Are Tooth Roots?

The tooth roots are the part of the tooth inside the bone socket. They’re covered by a connective tissue known as cementum, which is hard but not as hard as tooth enamel. So, if the tooth roots are exposed, the cementum can quickly decay or wear away with brushing.

Tooth roots contain dentin and nerve pulp, so if the cementum is worn out, the dentin's tubules allow hot, cold, acidic, or sticky foods to stimulate the nerves inside the roots, causing sensitivity.

So how are the nerves in your tooth roots exposed? The root of a tooth is typically covered and supported by gum, cementum, and bone. If this support disappears, the root is exposed, and ultimately the nerves inside the tooth roots are exposed.

What Causes Exposed Tooth Roots?

In some cases, receding gums or exposed tooth roots are the result of wear and tear of years of aggressive brushing. But they can also be caused by gum disease or periodontal disease. Other possible causes include smoking and tobacco use, tooth grinding, and misaligned teeth.

Symptoms of an Exposed Tooth Root

We’ve already talked about how tooth sensitivity can be a sign of an exposed tooth root. This is often the first noticeable symptom. Another sign is your teeth appear to look longer than before. Red, swollen, or bleeding gums are symptoms of gum disease that might also be related to having a tooth root exposed.

Treatments for an Exposed Tooth Root

The Canadian Academy of Periodontology notes that root coverage procedures like gum graft surgery increase the attached tissue and reduce recessions. Consult with your dentist or periodontist to determine if this is the right option for your teeth.

Your dentist or periodontist could recommend one of the following treatments to protect your exposed tooth root:

  • Covering the root with white fillings (bonding)
  • Applying fluoride varnishes
  • Applying dentin sealers

As you now know, exposed tooth roots can cause sensitivity, making it uncomfortable for you to eat or drink some foods. Your dentist may recommend using desensitizing toothpaste to decrease tooth sensitivity. It’s also important to watch what you eat and maintain good oral hygiene. You might want to stay away from foods that are causing your pain or discomfort.

What Happens to Untreated Exposed Tooth Roots?

If you don’t treat your exposed tooth roots, you can develop periodontal disease, which can eventually destroy the bones and soft tissues supporting the teeth and result in tooth loss. If periodontitis advances further, your tooth can become loose, fall out, or have to be extracted.

It’s natural to feel alarmed if you are suddenly experiencing tooth sensitivity or your teeth appear longer than usual. But don’t worry! Your dentist or periodontist knows exactly how to treat your exposed tooth roots. So don’t put off visiting the dentist. The sooner you get treated, the sooner you can enjoy some of your favourite foods without twinges of pain.