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What is Dental Resorption?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Dental resorption is a process where the body begins to attack one or more teeth, treating them as foreign bodies in need of destruction. The teeth involved will be eaten away and the patient can experience pain, numbness, and discomfort, in addition to noticing changes in the shape and size of the teeth. The causes of dental resorption are not fully understood and there are treatments available, although it is sometimes necessary to pull the teeth involved.

There are several forms of dental resorption. External resorption starts with the outer layers of the teeth and tends to be more severe, while internal resorption works its way out from the core of the tooth, and is less noticeable at first. People can also develop root resorption, where only the root of the tooth is involved. Internal resorption and root resorption can be treated with root canal procedures, while external resorption usually results in an extraction.

Sometimes, this damage to the teeth can be linked with ongoing periodontal disease and inflammatory processes. Chronic inflammation can trigger peculiar immune reactions as the body adapts to the inflammation, and sometimes the body may start attacking its own tissues. In other cases, there may be no clear cause or warning sign for resorption, with the patient simply developing dental problems spontaneously. Even people with healthy, well-maintained teeth can experience resorption.

In people with this dental disorder, X-rays of the teeth, as well as a physical exam, can be used to identify the resorption and determine how far it has progressed. This information will be helpful when the dentist develops a treatment plan and discusses options with the patient. Receiving treatment is important, as the damage to the teeth can cause chronic pain and other problems for the patient if it is allowed to persist. It is also important for patients to be aware that even if their oral health has previously been excellent, they can still develop dental resorption.

Humans are not the only animals who can experience spontaneous resorption of the teeth. Dental resorption is also very common in cats. Many older cats develop lesions in their mouths as their teeth break down with age. An oral exam will often show redness and irritation symptomatic of inflammation around the sites of heavily eroded teeth. For cats, the treatment is usually extraction of the involved teeth, and it may be necessary to make dietary changes, such as switching to soft foods the cat can eat more comfortably.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon285442 — On Aug 15, 2012

Some of us just have bad teeth! I brush and floss three times a day and still so many cavities. Now, I think my teeth are going to fall out due to internal resorption. What is going on?

By BigManCar — On Aug 12, 2011

I never understood why people don't go to the dentist. I just went the other day and they told me it looked like I was in the very early stages of a few of my teeth breaking down, and we made a plan right there to slow it down and hopefully prevent it.

There are a lot of places where you can get free or really cheap dental services. Call your local college that has a dental school, or try the health department for your county.

The worst thing anyone can do is just let their teeth rot out of their head. Sometimes there's nothing you can do about it, but a lot of times that's not the case.

By MaPa — On Aug 12, 2011

My cat did get this a few years ago, and they had to pull quite a few of his teeth. That must be horrible for a cat to lose so much of its chewing power. He used to like a particular kind of dry cat food, and after the procedure we had to switch him to the wet kind. He was not amused.

Like a lot of cats, he was kind of a picky eater, and he refused the new food for a few days. Eventually he got hungry and started eating it. So far, after the big round of dental work (which I'm still paying for) he's been good.

By Viktor13 — On Aug 11, 2011

You really have to stay on top of this if you see it starting to happen. My uncle has a problem with tooth resorption and once it got going, it spread really fast. Of course, he was one of those guys who never goes to the dentist, so he never saw it coming until it was too late.

A lot of time this can be prevented if you keep up with your oral hygiene and get regular checkups. It's way easier to prevent than it is to treat.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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