Root caries is the name given to a cavity which is found in the root surface of teeth, commonly next to or beneath the gumline. It is most common to find root caries in the back teeth of the lower jaw (known as your mandibular molars), with your mandibular premolars being the second most common place for them to occur. As the population ages, and people keep their teeth for longer than they used to, root caries have become more of a significant dental issue. This is because as patients age, their gums typically recede thus exposing the root surfaces. This then makes the surfaces more susceptible to root caries.
While certainly more common in older patients, root caries are not only found in the older generation. Indeed, any patient who is experiencing gum recession may develop root caries.
You may be more vulnerable to this problem is you experience the following:
- Receding gums (this exposes the tooth’s root, which is more likely to develop decay due to it being softer than the enamel coating of the tooth).
- If you are on certain medications, you may find your saliva flow inhibited. Having a dry mouth stops acids formed by dental plaque being flushed away.
- Patients with disabilities such as arthritis may find it difficult to brush their teeth. This can lead to a buildup of dental plaque, and make root caries more likely.
How are root caries diagnosed?
Root caries will be diagnosed by your Fulham NHS Dentist. They may use X rays, as these help identify issues in and between the back teeth.
Treatment for root caries
Because of their awkward position, root caries can be hard to restore. On top of this, issues may arise due to moisture control and the closeness of the caries to the pulp - all of this results in high rates of recurrence. It is possible the tooth may have to be removed.
There is no single solution for root caries; management and treatment will vary depending on location and severity of the lesion.
How to prevent root caries:
To prevent root caries occurring, you should be aware of:
Modifying your diet, and reducing your sugar intake.
Taking steps to thoroughly remove plaque (e.g. using a quality electric toothbrush).
Stimulating the flow of your saliva by chewing sugar-free gum.
Using fluoride products (e.g. toothpaste) to make your root surfaces resistant to root caries.