Root Caries (Decay)

root cariesWhat is Root Caries?

Root caries (decay) occurs on the area of the tooth where recession has occurred and roots are exposed. Unlike the crown of the tooth that is covered by enamel, roots are made of dentin which can decay easier. This type of decay becomes more common with age.

What Causes Root Caries?

Like all decay, the fundamental cause is bacteria. Bacteria sticks to the root and forms a sticky film called plaque. Plaque produces acid that demineralizes (softens) the tooth. A major contributing factor increasing the incidence of decay is a change in the amount and quality of one’s saliva. Saliva can be considered the bloodstream of the mouth. Saliva bathes the teeth in minerals and keeps your teeth hard.

Many medications, chemotherapy, radiation treatment and some diseases can cause salivary glands to produce less saliva. This very common condition called “Xerostomia” is more prevalent as we age.

What can be done to repair the damage to the tooth?

If identified early a filling may be all that is necessary. However, if the damage is more extreme, a crown or possibly a root canal may be required. Unfortunately at times, so much damage has been done, a tooth must be removed.

How can Root Caries be Prevented?

The most important thing you can do is keep your teeth cleaned every day. If your gums are receded, cleaning will be more difficult and time consuming. If you are taking medication, there is a good chance your saliva flow is becoming compromised (you may not notice this because it happens gradually). It is important to visit the office so root caries can be found early and preventative steps implemented. Customized fluoride, supplementations, oral hygiene aids and diet all need to be discussed during your visit. For further recommendations, visit the Xerostomia page on our website.

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