To answer this question, root absorption is a possible consequence of orthodontic treatment. The amount of root absorption is typically harmless to the patient and the teeth. However, only 2% of patients are genetically predisposed to root shortening. Depending on a patient’s genetics, it is possible for some root resorption to occur during orthodontic treatment. If you are aware of this family trait prior to getting braces, it is best to communicate it with your orthodontist to discuss the best treatment options.
Braces work by creating small cramps like a “Charlie Horse” around each tooth. The enzymes that are created by orthodontic forces cause old bone to dissolve where there is pressure, and new bone to be formed. This is completely normal and are the basis for orthodontic tooth movement. Research has shown that tooth movement causes at least small changes in the shape and length of the roots in ALL patients. In 98% however, these changes are undetectable with the naked eye.
One known orthodontic treatment that may cause root shortening or root resorption is the use of TADs or temporary anchorage devices. This method is only used for patients with specific cases. Mini screws are placed into the patient’s gums and are used as anchors to help guide the teeth in a specific direction. For example, a patient with a gummy smile may opt for TADs to decrease the amount of gum shown when smiling.
One misconception is that root resorption is based on the amount of time the braces are worn. This is completely false. The amount of time that a patient wears braces does not affect or cause root resorption.
The best practice would be to take annual x-rays during orthodontic treatment to monitor any potential root resorption. This way the patient and their family are immediately notified if any significant changes are caught and the appropriate next steps can be taken. It is important to note that a tooth can lose up to half its root length and still have no problems.
If you have any additional questions regarding orthodontic treatment, give us a call at (510) 570-6244 and our friendly staff will be happy to assist you.