Root Surface Decay


With a growing older population comes a greater challenge to prevent decay.

As people get older more root is exposed, and they are subjected to decay on these surfaces. The bacteria is different than the decay caused on the biting surface of teeth or between the teeth.  The root decay can be very difficult to manage.

I have patients who have the bad habit of keeping life savers, candies or mints in their mouth all day. Many of these contain sugar, a substance to feed the bacteria.

Patients on medications for systemic illness are frequently prone to decay. For example, I have several patients who suffer from Parkinson’s disease. These patients are challenged with their motor skills, but they are also taking medication that further challenges their teeth, especially the root surfaces.

The restoration of these areas provide a challenge. Whereas the crown of the tooth has a layer of enamel, the root surfaces has no enamel, only dentin. The bonding materials that are used in dentistry have a much stronger bond when bonded to enamel. The solution for the root surface is to use a glass ionomer cement. The cement is white and will bond to the root surface much better than the typical bonded resins. Of interest, this filling material is the only one used in dentistry that likes water (hydrophilic). This material is not as strong and is not recommended as a final restorative material where a chewing surface is involved.

For maintenance there are special mouth rinses such as Biotene which help people with dry mouth (known as xerostomia). Xylitol gum and mints help with areas as well, stimulating saliva. Xylitol does not work like regular sugar, and decay is not promoted.