Hypercementosis is a condition that affects the shape and surface of a tooth's roots. More specifically, it is characterized by the excessive buildup of a material called cementum over the root of a tooth, resulting in an abnormal shape, as explained by an article in BMJ Case Reports.
What Is Cementum?
Cementum is one of the four substances that comprise a tooth. It is a mineralized connective tissue that covers the entire root surface, and it is softer than enamel, which covers the top portion of a tooth. Because the tooth roots are concealed underneath the gums, the cementum should usually not be visible above the gumline. According to the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, its main function is to anchor the teeth to the bone that holds the tooth sockets.
What Causes Hypercementosis?
As explained in the BMJ Case Reports article, the precise cause of this condition is unclear. Sometimes, it can be found in people who have certain health conditions, such as arthritis, rheumatic fever, acromegaly or Paget's disease. In other cases, the condition can be linked to a vitamin A deficiency. It may also be found in people who have oral conditions such as periodontal disease or tooth damage due to misaligned teeth. Hypercementosis most commonly affects adults, and its occurrence increases as a person ages, according to a study in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology.
According to the BMJ Case Reports article, people are often unaware that they have this condition, as there are usually no symptoms. The excess cementum can be seen visually on a radiograph, or X-ray, and a dental professional will often first notice it when analyzing regular dental scans. It will appear on the X-ray as a thickening of the root outlined by a shadow, as explained by the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology study.
The BMJ Case Reports article notes that hypercementosis can affect a single tooth or multiple teeth in the same person. The lower molars are the most commonly associated teeth, but the cementum buildup can also be found in the upper and lower premolars.
As explained in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology study, no treatment is necessary for hypercementosis, but your dental professional will likely want to monitor the condition to ensure it doesn't cause any problems. This condition can appear similar in X-rays to another dental condition called cementoblastoma, which is more serious in nature as it involves the formation of a growth on the tooth root, reports a study in the Unique Journal of Medical and Dental Sciences.
Your dentist should be able to tell the difference between the two conditions, as a cementoblastoma typically affects young adults under the age of 20, according to the Unique Journal of Medical and Dental Sciences study. Hypercementosis is more common in older patients. Additionally, a cementoblastoma may cause pain and swelling as the growth continues to get larger. Dentists often recommend tooth extraction in cases of cementoblastoma.
Seeing your dentist for regular checkups and X-rays will help ensure that any dental problems that develop can be caught early on and treated.