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Basement Cavity: How Your Tooth Roots Can Be Affected By Decay

You might already know that the outer layer of a tooth is called enamel. If you don't care for your teeth, that enamel can corrode. Without proper treatments, this tooth decay will work its way through the tooth to the nerve, causing extreme discomfort. At that late stage, a root canal may be mandatory, assuming the tooth can still be saved. Decay is often visible on a tooth's surface and is a sign you need to see your dentist right away. However, enamel is not the only part of a tooth's surface that can decay.

Enamel and Decay

Enamel is the strongest substance in the human body. It's heavily-mineralized and needs this strength to protect both itself and the rest of the tooth from corrosion and decay. Enamel is the only part of a tooth that you can  see, but sometimes decay attacks the tooth at the basement level because enamel stops at the gum line. 

The Junction

The tooth extends beneath the gum line, but the physical presence of your gums means that the tooth shouldn't need the protection of enamel in this subgingival (beneath the gums) area. This part of the tooth's surface (which includes its root system) is covered with a substance called cementum. The cementoenamel junction is the part of the tooth where enamel becomes cementum.

Cementum and Your Roots

Cementum is similar to enamel, but its differences may cause a problem. It's simply not as strong as enamel, and despite its subgingival location, it's not immune to attack from acidic compounds in foods and drinks, not to mention cariogenic bacteria (which is bacteria capable of causing dental cavities). A root cavity is exactly what it sounds like; it's when the cementum covering the tooth root has been breached and tooth decay is actively occurring. 

Hard to Spot

These root cavities are hard to spot, and increasing sensitivity in the tooth may be your first clue. Despite the apparent complexity of the problem, it's not difficult to treat, and you should schedule an appointment with your regular dentist.

Filling a Cavity

A root cavity is treated in essentially the same way as a cavity in the tooth's enamel. The decayed portion of the tooth's structure is removed, and filling material is applied. Because of the delicate location of the cavity, additional treatment may be needed. 

Future Prevention

Poor gingival health may have led to gum recession, exposing the cavity. Your dentist can give you a few tips to prevent a recurrence of this problem. However, non-surgical periodontal surgery may help your gum tissues to reattach to the roots of your teeth. In more extreme cases, gum grafting may be useful. This is a minor surgical procedure to attach gum tissues to the deficient site.

Although it's slightly more complex than a typical cavity, a root cavity can and should be filled without delay. Reach out to a local dental clinic, such as Rabel Family Dentistry, to learn more.