Ask The Dentist: The truth about root resorption and how to combat it

Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast, on why that pink tooth could be a warning sign of internal root resorption and what to do to combat it

Noticed that you've got a pink tooth? It could be a sign of internal root resorption
Lucy Stock

PINK, normally the colour associated with fun and happiness – but not so if it is to do with your teeth: a tooth can actually turn pink in colour, which is a sign that that it's in quite bad twist.

Inside the tooth is dissolving: the tissue in the space that is normally occupied by creamy dentine is red in colour and it's this granulation tissue that shines through giving the pinkish appearance.

The tooth may have been totally happy plodding along its life and then wham it's side-swiped by a hockey ball or rapidly advancing pavement. The force of any blow can set off a cellular chain reaction inside a tooth which makes it break down. This is known as internal root resorption.

Often, a person will have absolutely no idea of the tooth's inner turmoil as this is not a painful condition. The first a person may be aware of it is if a bubble appears on the gum or a dentist picks it up on routine examination and X-rays.

If the resorption has only affected a small part of the root then the nerve can be removed from the tooth and the nerve tube root filled with hard rubber. This disrupts the blood flow to the area helping to halt the resorption process.

As well as internal resorption, the outside of the root can also dissolve, which is known as external root resorption. In the past this could have occurred after braces, although brace design has now advanced to reduce the chances of this happening.

A tooth root can even look as though it has suffered a mini shark bite attack when a root is externally resorbing. This type may occur if a person is a severe grinder where they place massive, repeated, overloading forces on their teeth which tips the tooth root into a process of dissolving. A tooth root can even turn into bone.

Unfortunately, it isn't always possible to save an affected tooth; treatment depends on how far it has progressed and when it is detected. If a tooth is not saveable your dentist can discuss the different options of replacing a tooth, such as with a denture, bridge or implant and crown.

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