Root canal caries is a cavity located in the root surface of a tooth, usually close to or below the gum-line. Mandibular molars (lower jaw back teeth) are the most common location to find root caries, followed by mandibular premolars. Root caries has become an important dental problem because people are living longer and keeping their teeth longer. As patients grow older, their gums recede and root surfaces are exposed, making them more susceptible to root caries.

Root caries is not exclusive to older patients. Any caries prone patient having gum recession can develop root caries.

The following will make you more vulnerable to root caries:

  • Gum recession (gum recession exposes roots of the tooth which is softer than enamel that covers the crown of the tooth consequently; this area is most likely to develop decay).
  • Certain medications that reduce saliva flow and cause you to have a dry mouth. (The constant flow of saliva is important to “flush” the mouth and reduce the effects of acids produced by bacteria in dental plaque)
  • If you have impaired ability to effectively brush your teeth because of arthritis or other disability; this allows dental plaque to build up and can lead to root caries.

 

How is it diagnosed?

Root caries can be diagnosed by a dentist. X rays are also helpful in diagnosis, particularly when they occur between back teeth.

 

Treatment

Root caries are often very difficult to restore due to their location, problems with moisture control and proximity to the pulp and are therefore prone to high recurrence rates. Ultimately the tooth might have to be extracted.

The treatment and management considerations for root caries vary depending upon the extent and location of the lesion as well as the type of materials being used.

 

Prevention

Prevention of root caries include

  • Dietary modification (reducing frequency of sugar intake)
  • Steps for effectively removing plaque (e.g. electric toothbrush)
  • Stimulating saliva flow (e.g. sugar free chewing gum)
  • Fluoride application to make root surfaces more resistant to caries – toothpastes containing fluoride