Fillings on root surfaces are necessary because of decay at the gum line. They are also required to treat tooth sensitivity, and/or protect root surfaces that develop “V” shaped notches. These notches develop from aggressive brushing or from constant pressure on the tooth from clenching or grinding.
Exposed root surfaces can be very sensitive, and further damage to the tooth can also progress quickly since the protective enamel coating is missing. These types of lesions are extremely vulnerable to bacteria and acidic foods so it’s necessary to protect them by placing a filling over top and removing decay if necessary.
The cavity or “notch” is cleaned thoroughly, surrounding decay is removed, and a filling is used to seal the area. In the case of “notches” only minimal preparation of the surrounding area is needed. Local anesthetic is generally required for this procedure, especially when root sensitivity is being treated.
Cavities and “notches” on root surfaces will sometimes progress below the gum line and require some minor modification of the gums to allow access for proper restoration.
Filling material is coloured to match the surrounding tooth, and looks quite natural. Initial post-operative sensitivity is normal and generally lasts for 2-3 days. An alternative to fillings in some cases may be a gum graft.
Why Fix Root Cavities?
Just like other cavities, root cavities start slowly and without symptoms, then as more bacteria accumulates or acid exposure occurs, the tooth erodes at a much faster rate. Lesions that aren’t treated will spread to the nerve of the tooth eventually causing pain and requiring root canal treatment or removal of the tooth.
How Can I Prevent Root Cavities?
The best way to prevent root cavities is to brush twice daily and floss or use soft-picks once per day. If you have a sugary drink or snack, rinse your mouth to flush away some of the sugar. You should also keep up with your hygiene maintenance appointments to make sure problems are caught early and addressed promptly.
Be careful not to scrub your teeth at the gum line or to apply excessive pressure with an electric tooth brush. Notches will begin to appear on several teeth in a given area.
If a clenching or grinding appliance has been suggested, consider having one made or use your existing appliance diligently. Clenching and grinding apply excessive force causing the tooth to flex which, over time, allows small bits of tooth to chip away. Over time a large notch will appear.