Getting to the Root of the Problem
While our roots are well-protected, they’re not indestructible! Several conditions can damage them. But we’re not just about problems—we also have some suggestions to keep your roots solid and intact for a lifetime.
- Traumatic Injury
A blow, a fall from a bike, a sports injury—any trauma which can hurt your visible tooth can hurt your roots as well. And it’s not just accidents that cause harm. Cracks in the tooth caused by oral habits like chewing on ice, pencils, or other hard objects can lead to root fractures.
You can help prevent root injuries by wearing a mouth guard whenever you are engaged in contact sports or any physical activity that might cause damage to your face or mouth. If you have harmful oral habits, talk to the doctor about how to break them. And if you do suffer a dental injury, see us as soon as possible to avoid more serious complications.
Bruxism, or tooth grinding, is most often an unconscious habit that takes place while you sleep. Grinding puts enormous pressure on teeth and their roots. The damage can be obvious, with cracked and worn crowns, but your roots can be affected, too. The strain of this constant pressure can stretch the periodontal ligament, causing loose teeth.
Night guards are one of the easiest ways to relieve pressure on individual teeth and roots. Your dentist can fabricate a night guard which will provide comfortable, effective protection for your teeth and jaw.
- Gum Recession
Taking care of your gums is one of the best ways to protect your roots.
Gums often recede as we age, leaving part of the root exposed. Gum disease, failure to brush and floss regularly, and heavy-handed brushing can also lead to gum recession. The newly revealed cementum is now exposed to the plaque and acids which cause cavities in our enamel, and, since it’s not as strong as enamel, cementum is more vulnerable to erosion and cavities progress more quickly.
When more severe recession takes place, the gums pull away from the teeth, creating pockets which become home to plaque and bacteria. Left untreated, infection and inflammation can develop, attacking teeth, connective tissue, and bone. Talk to the doctor about scaling and planing procedures for a deep cleaning of the root surface, or grafting procedures to replace the gum tissue which protects your roots.
- Infected or Injured Roots
An endodontist is a specialist in diagnosing and treating conditions affecting the inner tooth and its surrounding tissues. To specialize in this field, endodontists have two or more years of additional advanced training in procedures designed to save your natural teeth.
Any infection or trauma which injures the pulp of the tooth will affect the roots as well. Most of us are familiar with root canal treatment, where infected or damaged pulp is removed, and the insides of the pulp chamber and canals are cleaned, shaped, and filled. A crown is usually placed afterward to cap and protect the tooth. Endodontists are specialists in root canal treatment, saving teeth which would otherwise be lost.
Endodontists are also trained in surgical procedures which treat persistent root pain and infection:
- When infections recur near the tip of a root after a root canal, an apicoectomy is the most common surgical treatment. In this procedure, your endodontist will carefully remove a few millimeters from the tip of the tooth, then clean the infected parts of the tooth and the tissues around it before sealing the root tip.
- If a single root in a molar with multiple roots is seriously damaged, decayed, or infected, your endodontist might recommend a root amputation. Here the damaged root is surgically removed, preserving the remaining roots and crown. If the crown is damaged as well, your endodontist can perform a hemisection, removing the root and part of the crown to save as much as possible of the molar.
- When the reason for your discomfort is unclear, diagnostic surgery can find the cause of persistent pain when a tooth fracture or root canal branch is so small that even an X-ray doesn’t reveal it.
Healthy roots help you keep your teeth for a lifetime, so it’s important to see the doctor as soon as possible if you have any symptoms of potential problems:
- Constant pain in tooth, gums, or jaw
- Pain when biting down
- Loose teeth
- Tooth discoloration
- Sensitivity to hot and cold
- Swelling or pain in the gums around a tooth
Do your part by keeping up with daily brushing and flossing, seeing your dentist for exams as recommended, and making an appointment at our New York, New York office if you are feeling any pain or discomfort. Strong roots are essential to our oral health, and a lifetime of healthy smiles is something we’re all rooting for!