Resorption is a general term for what happens when one part of the body absorbs or draws in another part. It occurs differently in various areas and tissues, but tooth resorption refers specifically to the inflammation and loss of dentin (inner tissue) or cementum (outer material) to absorption, according to the American Association of Endodontists (AAE).
There are two main types of resorption that may happen to a tooth: internal and external.
Internal Tooth Resorption
When a dentist diagnoses internal resorption, they are referring to the tooth itself. The dentin or cementum starts to be absorbed into the tooth canal, which causes the tooth's inner and outer surfaces to become inflamed. This is usually caused by some form of injury to the tooth, such as trauma, chemicals or heat, or bacterial invasion of the pulp. The tooth tissue changes from its normal consistency into giant, inflamed cells that are then absorbed into the tooth root.
This process eventually leaves the tooth hollow, which weakens it and makes it susceptible to damage and decay. The first sign of internal resorption a patient notices is usually a pinkish tinge to the tooth, which shows that the internal tissue is affected. Their dentist could then order a dental image or X-ray, which might show a dental lesion in the area affected.
External Tooth Resorption
External resorption is similar to internal resorption, and sometimes very difficult to distinguish. The causes can include trauma to the tooth, rapid orthodontic movement of the teeth (such as braces), or infection of the gum space in and around the tooth.
When the outside root or crown of a permanent tooth is absorbed, it can lead to tooth loss, infection, shifting teeth, and other mouth and jaw problems, unless you receive timely dental attention.
Treatment Options Tooth Resorption
Treatment methods for tooth resorption depend on the particulars of each case. The dentist might decide to perform a root canal treatment to fill and seal the tooth. If there is too much tooth resorption, they may even extract the tooth.
In the early stages while the affected area is small, a dental surgeon might be able to expose it with minor gum surgery and remove the cells causing damage.
It's possible to prevent resorption from occurring if you are able to avoid developing an infection or sustaining an injury to your teeth. Wear mouth guards while playing sports, brush your teeth twice daily with a toothpaste like Colgate Enamel Health Whitening (which helps replenish natural calcium), floss daily and visit your dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleanings.