If you don’t have a history of sensitive teeth and you suddenly experience pain or discomfort when eating and drinking certain foods and beverages, you might have an exposed tooth root. Fortunately, there are different treatment options available to restore your natural gum line and allow you to eat and drink without discomfort. Here’s what you need to know about an exposed tooth root and treatment options:
What is an exposed tooth root?
The part of the tooth that is visible in the mouth is only about less than half of the actual tooth—the rest sits below the gumline and anchors the tooth to the jawbone. While the exposed part of the tooth is covered in strong enamel, the root is covered in a connective tissue called cementum, which can quickly decay or wear down if the gum line recedes and the root is exposed to brushing. Once the cementum is worn away, strong sensations such as heat and cold reach the dentin and nerve pulp inside the tooth, causing mild to extreme discomfort.
What causes an exposed tooth root?
Exposed tooth roots are most commonly caused by receding gums or gum disease, but other factors can contribute as well. Gum disease occurs when bacteria enters the space between your teeth and gums, causing an infection that eventually recedes the bone around the teeth and exposes the roots if not treated. Receding gums can also result from gum disease, or from poor dental habits, genetic predisposition, or the natural aging process.
Other factors that contribute to exposed tooth roots include:
- Aggressive brushing using a hard or medium bristle toothbrush
- Tobacco use
- Bruxism (tooth grinding or clenching)
- Traumatic mouth injury
- Misaligned teeth, which are more susceptible to gum recession
What are the symptoms of an exposed tooth root?
Symptoms of an exposed tooth root can vary, and some people have no symptoms at all. The most obvious symptom is sudden increased sensitivity to hot, cold, sour, acidic or sweet foods and beverages. Another clear sign is a longer-looking tooth, which is the result of the gum line receding. Other symptoms include tender or sore gums that bleed when you brush, swelling and pain (sign of an infection), and tooth discoloration, which is a sign of tooth decay.
What are the treatments available for an exposed tooth root?
There are many ways to prevent exposing a tooth root, such as maintaining a good oral health routine and brushing gently with a soft bristle toothbrush, but the best way to treat an already-exposed root is to cover it back up. The most common procedure to achieve this goal is a gum graft, which uses your own gum tissue taken typically from the roof of your mouth or from a donor source. The tissue is placed in the space between your tooth and gums and are sutured together. Once the healing process is complete, your gum line will be restored.
An alternative method to treat an exposed tooth root is through a donor source, such as the Chao pinhole technique. Here a small hole is made in your gums, through which a device is inserted to create a space between your receded gums and tooth. Donor collagen material is placed to stabilize the area of gum recession. Another great donor source option is the Pat Allen tunneling technique. This technique involves going directly between your tooth and receded gums and creating a space to insert a donor collagen graft. Sutures are then used to secure everything in place. The main benefits of using donor tissue over using your own gum tissue are that it’s much less invasive, does not require a second surgical site, and offers better healing.
Learn more about Gum Graft Donor Tissue Vs Own Tissue for Gum Recession here.
Exposed tooth root treatment at San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry
If you have increased sensitivity to eating and drinking certain foods and beverages or you notice any other symptoms of an exposed tooth root, it’s important to seek treatment before it gets worse. San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry specializes in treating receding gums, and our team of experienced professionals can explain all the options available for treatment, including gum grafts.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, call us at (619) 543-0905.