My dentist says I have “root caries.” What are they, what causes it, and what can be done to treat it?


Root caries, or root decay, are cavities that develop in root exposed areas. It looks like brown or black spots on the area near the gum line. Early stages of root decay may have no pain associated with it. At later stages, you may start to have cold or sweet sensitivity. According to the American Dental Association, the majority of people over age 50 have tooth root decay.

Tooth Decay - Generations Magazine - October-November 2012Root decay can occur when the gums recede or draw away from the tooth and expose a softer root surface called cementum. The rest of the tooth surface is covered by a much harder enamel surface. The causes of gum recession include periodontal (gum) disease, stresses when teeth bite together, heredity and rough toothbrushing.

There are various ways to address this problem, depending on its severity. Treatment may include medicated mouth rinses, placing a filling at the gum line, treatment restorative veneers, root canal therapy or gum surgery. In the worse case scenario, a patient may even lose the tooth.

The best treatment, of course, is always prevention. Be sure to stay up-to-date with your examinations and cleanings. This way any problems can be caught early and addressed promptly.

Wynn H. Okuda, DMD, Inc.
808-734-1099 |