Root resorption is a scary-sounding way to say that the roots of your teeth can become shorter. When deciding whether braces are an appropriate course of treatment for yourself or your child, you may worry about possible long-term side effects of the treatment, including root resorption.
Root resorption can occur while wearing braces, which is why it’s important to understand what it is, how it is caused, and what it means for patients affected by it. Thankfully, most cases of root resorption have no adverse effects and are an expected part of the process of wearing braces.
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Do Braces Affect Teeth Roots?
Braces work by joining brackets fastened to the front or back of your teeth with an archwire. The connection, finely tuned by your orthodontist, will exert pressure on the teeth that gradually cause them to shift into alignment. This pressure affects the ligaments around the tooth, causing them to become temporarily looser than normal to enable this movement.
For this to happen, the bone structure around the tooth has to loosen and rebuild itself during the gradual movement process. This means once teeth reach their new positions, the bones and ligaments reform to make them sturdy again. During this process, the roots of teeth can become shorter, which is known as root resorption.
In fact, root resorption is a necessary and unpredictable aspect of how braces work, since moving teeth from their natural crooked positions to better-aligned ones requires exerting pressure on the ligaments, bones, and even nerves that hold them in place.
What Causes Root Resorption?
Orthodontists aren’t certain why root resorption occurs, though some have theorized that if teeth are moved at the wrong pace (either too quickly or slowly), root resorption can happen as a result. Physical trauma to the patient’s mouth can also cause the roots to heal shorter than they were before.
This unpredictability makes preventing root resorption difficult. Beyond taking general safety procedures during sporting activities, such as wearing a mouthguard, there isn’t much you can do. After a blow to the mouth, it’s important to visit your doctor to make sure you heal the right way. But root resorption caused more gradually, such as during your braces treatment, cannot be prevented.
What to Do About Root Resorption
Knowing that root resorption is possible, you may be concerned about moving forward with braces. However, root resorption is nothing to be worried about! It is a natural and expected side effect of wearing braces. It’s extremely rare for root resorption to be noticeable enough to affect patients in any way.
Our teeth are hardy and can lose up to around half of their total nerve root length before becoming a problem. If that happens, the tooth may need to be removed. But to put it in perspective, wearing braces usually only changes the root length by around 10%, sometimes a little less or a little more. That’s one-fifth of the change required for root resorption to become a problem.
Root resorption happens unnoticeably for nearly all patients affected, including the 2% of people whom orthodontists predict are genetically predisposed to root resorption. It doesn’t feel like anything and rarely causes any further complications that would impact the success of your treatment.
Myths About Root Resorption
Since root resorption refers to nerve roots, it has been mystified by those who read the phrase on the internet and began to worry that their braces could have serious adverse effects. Whether you’re a current or prospective braces patient, we want to dispel a few myths about root resorption to calm your fears about it.
Myth #1: Root resorption is painful
Root resorption would only be felt in the most serious of cases in which more than 50% of the nerve root is shortened. The vast majority of patients never even feel it.
Myth #2: Root resorption is more common in longer treatments
Patients who need braces for a long time should not be more afraid of root resorption. There’s no evidence to suggest that it occurs proportional to treatment time.
Myth #3: Root resorption is permanent
Even in serious cases, root resorption can be treated. Depending on the circumstances, your doctor may need to perform a root canal, replace a crown, or even extract a damaged tooth to prevent further damage. If you experience serious root resorption, speak with your orthodontist about your treatment options.
Choose Reese Orthodontics
If you’re an adult who is considering braces, you need professional advice on your treatment and payment options. For orthodontic treatments in Charleston, SC, Reese Orthodontics offers the latest technology and treatment plans. Our advanced and comfortable orthodontic treatments can be customized to suit your needs. A consultation with Reese Orthodontics includes scans, a comprehensive exam, and a conversation with the orthodontist to discover which treatment options are right for you.
Schedule an appointment with us today to stay ahead of your oral health and receive the best possible treatment in your area.