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What Is Tooth Resorption?

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Suppose a dental professional has told you that you are experiencing tooth resorption. In that case, you probably have a lot of questions, not the least of which is "what exactly does this diagnosis mean?" Tooth resorption, though not a commonly known dental term, is not as mysterious as it sounds. Resorption happens when your body, due to a traumatic injury, rejects its tooth as a self-defense mechanism.

Resorption specifically refers to the inflammation and loss of the tooth's dentin (inner tissue under the enamel) or cementum (outer material covering the tooth's roots). Let's dive into the two main types of resorption and their possible treatments.

Internal Tooth Resorption

A dental professional will diagnose internal resorption when the dentin or cementum becomes absorbed into the tooth canal, causing the tooth's inner and outer surfaces to become inflamed. When a tooth is injured, its tissue becomes inflamed and absorbed into the tooth root. This process eventually results in a hollow tooth, which becomes weak and susceptible to damage and decay. Types of injuries to the tooth can cause internal resorption; these include trauma, exposure to heat or chemicals, or bacterial invasion of the pulp.

A reddish tinge to the tooth is the first sign of internal resorption. A dental professional can then order dental images or X-rays of the hollow teeth to find dental lesions in the area affected.

External Tooth Resorption

External resorption is similar to internal resorption and can sometimes be challenging to diagnose as a separate issue and can even occur concurrently with internal resorption. Trauma to the teeth usually causes external resorption. Rapid orthodontic movement of the teeth (such as braces) or an infection of the gum space in and around the teeth are other causes. When the outside root or crown of a tooth is damaged, it can lead to tooth loss, infection, shifting teeth, and other mouth and jaw problems.

Treatment Options Tooth Resorption

It's essential to seek help from a dental professional as soon as you experience an injury or notice resorption signs. Early detection is critical for recovery. Treatment methods for tooth resorption depend on the particulars of each case. Your dental professional 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. Or in the early stages of resorption, while the affected area is small, a dental surgeon might expose the damaged area through minor gum surgery and remove the cells that caused the damage.

Like most dental issues, a great preventative measure is to consistently brush and floss your teeth while regularly visiting a dental professional for professional cleanings and checkups. Resorption can still occur even if you take good care of your teeth, especially from unexpected trauma or infection. If you play sports, a great way to prevent injury is to wear a mouthguard. And as always, if you do injure your teeth or notice any signs of infection, see a dental professional immediately.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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