Rooting Out Cavities: How You Can Develop A Cavity In Your Tooth Roots

It doesn't matter where exactly on a tooth a cavity begins—it all starts as tooth decay. This decay is often visible on the tooth's clinical crown (which is the part of the tooth you can see). Those dark or otherwise discolored patches are the tooth's enamel corroding and are a sign that you need an urgent dental appointment. However, the crown isn't the only part of a tooth where cavities can form.

Clinical Crown  

The outer layer of the clinical crown is made of dental enamel, which is the strongest material in the human body. It can still corrode though, and tooth decay is enamel corrosion. It can be caused by negligent oral hygiene—allowing plaque to form on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky biofilm made of oral bacteria. 

Plaque Becomes Tartar

This bacteria feeds off the foods and drinks that pass through your mouth, and secretes an acidic compound. Established plaque will harden on the tooth, and is reclassified as tartar. The tooth beneath this tartar will slowly corrode if that tartar isn't removed via professional dental cleaning. Enamel corrosion can also be accelerated by consuming a high proportion of acidic foods and drinks. This is how a cavity can form, but as mentioned, it may not form in an obvious location.

Gum Inflammation

A root cavity can be related to negligent oral hygiene, as the worsening bacterial biofilm on teeth will start to cause inflammation of the gums. This condition is called gingivitis, and gums will be tender, and may bleed. They may also begin to retract from the bases of your teeth, exposing the roots which should ordinarily have the protection of gingival tissues.

Cementum and Your Roots

A tooth's clinical crown has an outer layer made of dental enamel. A tooth's roots are protected by a layer of cementum, which has similar properties to enamel, without being as strong. A root cavity penetrates your cementum, and allows bacteria to attack the tooth's root system. This can lead to increased sensitivity and toothache. The tooth's internal pulp (its nerve) may become infected via the roots, and this can often only be corrected with a root canal. 

Repairing Root Cavities

It's possible for a dentist to patch a cavity in cementum, using the same basic principle as filling a cavity in the tooth's clinical crown. Root planing will be performed, which scales tartar off the roots, removing the bacteria that's aggravating the tooth. Once this planing has been completed, the root cavity can be filled with tooth-colored composite resin.

A root cavity is far less obvious than one in the tooth's crown, but is no less dangerous for the health of the tooth.