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What Is A Furcation Defect?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Advanced gum disease, also known as periodontitis, can cause many complications in the mouth, including damage to the structures that support the teeth. One of these vulnerable structures is the furcation. In teeth with multiple roots (the molars and premolars), this is the area where the roots of the teeth meet.

Periodontitis Symptoms

People with periodontitis may experience gums that are swollen, bright red or painful to the touch. Due to a periodontal infection, the space between the tooth and gum may form a deep pocket. Pus may form between the teeth and the gums, and someone with periodontitis may notice bad breath or a bad taste in their mouth. As the infection damages teeth roots and bone, the teeth may become loose or misaligned. Bone loss that is specific to the branching of a tooth's roots is known as a furcation defect. Since only teeth with multiple roots can suffer this type of defect, this condition only affects the molar and premolar teeth at the back of the mouth.

Diagnosing Bone Loss Between Roots

Dental professionals can use probing to detect furcation defects, explains DentistryIQ. With an instrument called a periodontal probe, they can gently explore the area beneath the gums and teeth and identify bone loss. X-ray images are another useful diagnostic tool to detect bone loss in the furcation area. On an X-ray image, this defect may appear as a translucent area between the roots.

In more advanced cases, the defect may be visible without a probe. This can occur if the surrounding gum tissue is recessed (lower on the root surface) on the tooth, exposing the damaged root.


Furcation defects — and the periodontitis that causes them — need to be treated promptly. Without treatment, the affected teeth may need to be extracted.

A study published in the Dentistry Journal explains that scaling and root planing may be used to treat a defect. Scaling and root planing is a deep cleaning procedure that involves removing plaque and tartar from the surfaces of the teeth and roots, and then smoothing the rough areas on the surface of the roots.

To treat bone loss, dentists may perform a surgical procedure known as bone grafting. In this procedure, natural or synthetic bone is used to replace areas of lost bone. Proteins that stimulate the tissues may be used to help the area heal effectively.

In cases where the gum tissue has receded enough to expose the tooth roots, gum grafts may be a part of the treatment plan. Gum grafting involves taking gum tissue from another part of the mouth, like the roof of the mouth or a synthetic material, and attaching it to receded areas.

Teeth that are affected by this complication may not be able to be saved. When a tooth is lost, it can be replaced in many ways. Dental bridges may be used to replace missing teeth, and they're often anchored to the adjacent teeth. Dental implants are another option and can be surgically implanted in the jaw without affecting the surrounding teeth. For people who are missing more than a few teeth, dentures may also be another option.


Furcation defects are a complication of advanced gum disease. A good oral hygiene routine can help keep the gums healthy and inflammation at bay. To prevent gum disease, brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and be sure to use proper brushing techniques. It's also important to floss once a day since floss lets you clean areas that your toothbrush can't reach like under your gumline and between the teeth.

Dental checkups every six months are also important. At your regular cleanings, your dentist may be able to identify gum disease and treat it at an early stage before it advances and damages the teeth and bone structure.

Furcation defects are a serious complication of advanced gum disease. If you're concerned about the health of your gums or teeth, talk to your dentist.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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