Diving in to Tooth Resorption

Resorption is the process by which a material is reabsorbed. When it comes to teeth, this process occurs when the dentin or cementum (outer) layers begin to be absorbed by the body. Tooth injury is most often the cause of resorption. The tooth could be injured by a cavity or some sort of physical trauma. Resorption can either be internal or external.They can be hard to distinguish, but it is important to determine in order to give a more accurate prognosis for the tooth.

Root resorption as evidenced on a dental x-ray; courtesy of Spear Education.

 As the name implies internal resorption begins within the tooth, specifically in the nerve chamber. When caught in the early stages the tooth generally has a good prognosis. The preferred therapy is a root canal treatment. The aim with a root canal is to remove the remaining vital tissue that may be sustaining the resorptive cells. If the resorption is purely internal the tooth often has a good prognosis after treatment. 

When external resorption is suspected the prognosis is usually not good.  Trauma to the periodontal ligament is most often the cause of External resorption ( the group of ligaments that joins the outer layer of the root [cementum] to the bone supporting the teeth).Because it is not damaging the internal tissue, a root canal will not treat the problem. Depending on the severity of  external resorption, extraction may or may not be advised. 

Overall tooth resorption is rare, so there’s no need to worry just yet. Resorption is usually only detectable by x-ray and often is asymptomatic. In the case of external resorption a wait and see approach may be taken, whereas early root canal therapy may stop the progression of internal resorption. If you have had a traumatic physical injury to a tooth, it’s a good idea to let your dental professionals know and keep an eye on the tooth to catch any early signs of resorption. 



Internal resorption: an unusual form of tooth resorption

Tooth resorption part II – external resorption: Case series

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