How Serious is Tooth Resorption?


Dental resorption is a term used to describe the loss of a portion of the tooth. In many cases, this is caused by trauma from an accident, injury, or dental issue which remains untreated.


Resorption is a relatively common dental issue. Injury or irritation can result in the loss of a portion of the tooth. Various parts of the tooth can be impacted. This may include the interior pulp, cementum, dentin, and the root. The issue often begins on the outside of the tooth and moves to the inside over time.


The loss of part of the tooth may be combined with swelling of the gums in addition to pink or dark spots on the teeth. Unfortunately, resorption symptoms are not always obvious right away.


Depending on where the loss of tooth occurs, tooth resorption is classified as internal or external. External resorption is typically more obvious as it usually impacts the outside surface of a tooth which is visible.


As suggested by the name, internal resorption impacts the inside of the tooth. It is also less common and affects men more frequently than women. Patients who have received extensive oral surgery are at higher risk for internal resorption.


Patients may not be aware of having internal resorption as the inside tissues are affected. It is typically detected by a dental professional after obtaining X-rays. Teeth with internal resorption will have dark spots on the x-ray where there is missing tissue.


External resorption is more common and can affect any part of the tooth’s exterior. The resorption can reach from the roots to the cementum. From the exterior, external resorption may appear as deep holes or chips on the teeth. Resorption which impacts the tooth’s roots is visible in an X-ray. The roots will be shorter in length and the tips will be flattened.


When resorption occurs in the permanent teeth, it can cause long-term damage. Resorption in the baby teeth, however, is a perfectly normal part of development. As children mature, the roots of the baby teeth undergo resorption to prepare for the permanent teeth.


Resorption is different from decay. When children are given milk or formula in bed, their teeth can become coated in sugar. When this coating is not removed through brushing, the teeth can start to experience decay.



Various things can cause tooth resorption. External resorption is typically caused by an injury or trauma to the mouth and teeth. This can cause swelling and the loss of tissue or bone. Resorption can also occur due to extended use of braces or orthodontic appliances, from grinding of the teeth, or even harsh chemicals used to bleach the teeth.


Internal resorption is usually from a physical injury or an untreated cavity which causes swelling. In some cases, the cause of tooth resorption may not be known.


Below are some of the common complications associated with tooth resorption:

  1. Pain
  2. Infection
  3. Crooked or chipped teeth
  4. Weak and discolored teeth
  5. Holes
  6. Tooth loss
  7. Root recession
  8. Discomfort



Unfortunately, tooth resorption does not always have clear or obvious symptoms. Patients may not be aware of tooth resorption for years. Over time, resorption will become worse and often result in symptoms or complications listed above. Early detection of resorption can help prevent further damage and preserve the tooth. Patients should make regular visits to the dentist for examinations and professional cleanings.

What Happens if a Reabsorbed Tooth is Left Untreated