Exposed Tooth Root: Causes and Symptoms

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Tooth sensitivity can be a real pain. Sometimes, it can be even more painful not knowing why the sensitivity is occurring in the first place. You may experience tooth sensitivity when eating or drinking something hot or cold, or when biting down. A possible cause of tooth sensitivity is exposed tooth roots.

Each tooth contains a root, which houses the inner parts of the tooth including dentin, dental pulp, and nerve endings. Unlike the strong outer layer of teeth, dental enamel, the tooth’s root is covered by a much weaker connective tissue known as cementum. Consequently, as the roots and cementum become exposed, the nerve endings are more likely to be stimulated by hot, cold, and acidic things we consume leading to sensitivity. Individuals with exposed roots experiencing sensitivity may also show signs of red, swollen, or bleeding gums, and discoloration of the affected tooth. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, speak with your dental professional right away.

There are many potential factors that could contribute to root exposure. This can include poor oral hygiene, gum disease, gum recession, trauma, improper brushing by applying too much pressure, teeth grinding (bruxism), smoking, and misaligned teeth.

Treatment of exposed roots may include covering the roots with white composite filling material or sealers, and fluoride treatments. In some cases, your dentist may recommend over-the-counter desensitizing toothpastes to help alleviate tooth sensitivity caused by exposed roots. A common treatment for severely exposed roots is gum graft surgery, which has been shown to help lower the risk of further gum recession and bone loss, and protect the roots from decay, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. This procedure is often performed by a gum specialist (periodontist).

If exposed roots are left untreated, you may be at an increased risk of developing periodontal disease, a severe form of gum disease. Periodontal disease is characterized by inflammation, and loss of bone and soft tissues that support the teeth.

One of the easiest ways to prevent exposed roots is to maintain proper oral hygiene. Be sure to brush twice a day and floss daily to keep your gums and teeth strong and healthy. Also, limit your consumption of sugary and acidic foods and beverages. Regular dental checkups and cleanings are necessary to catch and treat oral conditions like gum disease early before progressing. Your dental professional will help diagnose if you have exposed roots and determine the appropriate treatment.