Guide For Exposed Tooth Root: Pictures, Causes & Treatment

If you have sensitivity or discomfort when eating and drinking certain types of foods, you may have an exposed tooth root. Normally, the gums are covering the root but if the gums get damaged or recede, the root will become exposed. The exposed portion contain a lot of nerves, which become sensitive when it comes into contact with foods and beverages.


How do you know if you have this condition? There are a couple of signs and symptoms of when you have an exposed tooth root. You may have just one symptom or you could have a combination of these symptoms. Alternatively, there are also individuals who experience no symptoms at all with this condition.

  • A longer tooth - when the gums recede, more of the tooth root becomes exposed because there is less gum covering it. This gives the tooth a longer looking appearance.

  • Increased tooth sensitivity - the exposed root has a lot of nerve endings that are normally protected by the gums. Once they are exposed, you will experience an increase in sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet, sour, acidic, and spicy foods.

  • Tooth pain - you may experience a sharp pain if certain foods come into abrupt contact with the nerves of the tooth. The exposed part is not use to external stimulation.

  • Tooth discoloration - the exposed root of the tooth is a different color from the enamel. The color will look more yellow when compared to the white enamel.

Exposed tooth root picture

Exposed root of a tooth
Exposed root of a tooth

The above picture is of an exposed root of an upper tooth when the gums have receded. The color of an exposed root is more yellow than the enamel, which is more white. In addition to the color, another major difference is the surface texture. The texture of the uncovered root feels more rough and gritty when compared to enamel, which feels smooth. Last but not least, when you run your fingernail over the junction of where the enamel meets the root you will feel a small bump. That bump is the delineation of where the root of the tooth begins.

Exposed root of a bottom tooth
Exposed root of a bottom tooth

Here is a picture of an exposed root of a bottom tooth, which is shown above. As you can see, the bottom tooth and the upper tooth both share a common appearance when the tooth root is exposed. The common trait is that they both have a yellowish color in appearance, especially when compared to enamel.

Picture of a dental crown with an exposed tooth root

Dental crown with exposed tooth root
Dental crown with exposed tooth root

Even teeth with dental crowns on them can still have their roots exposed if the gums recede and the photo above is proof of that. This means that even if you get crowns on all of your teeth, you still need to avoid activities which may cause the root to be exposed. Let's go through all of the causes of this condition.


The most common cause of exposed tooth roots is from receding gums as a result of gum disease. The gums will recede if the bacteria in plaque is allowed to stay attached to the surface of the tooth, thereby causing gum inflammation. The inflammation from the gums can spread to the bone and cause the bone to recede. Once the bone recedes, the gums will follow and recede as well. That is how an exposed tooth root is formed.

Other causes

Aside from gum disease, there may be other factors that can contribute to the gums receding and exposing the root of the tooth.

  • Aggressive brushing - overzealous brushing with a hard bristled toothbrush can cause permanent injury to your gums. Injured gums can recede and once the recession happens, the root will become exposed.

  • Teeth grinding - grinding your teeth can put a lot of pressure on your tooth, especially near the gum line. The grinding pressure can cause the gums to recede and expose the root.

  • Malocclusion - studies have shown that gum recession may be due to misaligned teeth. The malocclusion can put a lot of pressure on the teeth that can lead to exposure.

  • Tobacco use - using tobacco does not directly cause root exposure but it can increase the chances of gum disease, which then can lead to exposed roots.

  • Trauma mouth injury - sustaining trauma to your teeth can knock them out of place and leave the roots of the tooth exposed.

  • Genetic predispositions - some individuals have a predisposition to gum disease, which increases their risk for receding gums.

  • Tooth decay - believe it or not, you can get cavities on the root surface of your tooth, which can then lead to exposed nerves in a tooth.

  • Missing filling - you may have had receded gums and opted to have a filling done to cover up the exposed root. If that filling comes off, it will once again leave the root openly exposed.

  • Dental crown with a gap - some crowns can end up with a gap between the crown and the gum line over time. This condition can occur due to aggressive brushing or gum disease.

  • History of gum disease - you can have exposed tooth roots if you've previously had gum disease because once the gums recede it doesn't grow back. Your exposed roots could be a lingering consequence of once having periodontal disease. This may be case even if you don't have active gum disease right now.

Exposed tooth root treatment

Treatment for an exposed tooth root requires a visit to the dentist if you are looking for a permanent fix. Either a restorative dentist or a periodontal specialist will be able to fix the sensitivity from the root.

Restorative treatment

Your dentist can cover up the exposed part of the root by either doing a dental filling or dental veneer. Both restorations will effectively seal off the exposure by covering over it.

  • Dental filling. Only a composite filling can cover up the root effectively because it can bond on top of it. The procedure is similar to a cavity filling except this time there is no cavity. The procedure is done to provide root coverage. The picture below shows a filling covering the root surface. You can tell it is filling because the color is different from the top portion of the tooth which is enamel. The large molar on the right shows an exposure without any coverage.

Exposed tooth root filling
Exposed tooth root filling
  • Dental Veneer. Veneers don't always have to be done for purely cosmetic purposes because they can also be used to cover up sensitive root surfaces of your tooth. The procedure is exactly the same as if you got it for cosmetic purposes.

Veneers covering root surfaces
Veneers covering root surfaces

Periodontal treatment

Alternatively you could see a periodontist, who is a gum specialist to cover up the roots in a different way. A periodontist can utilize multiple types of gum grafting to regrow the gums or stretch it cover up the receded gums.

  • Pedicle graft. This grafting procedure takes gum tissue from an area adjacent to where the gum recession is and attach it to the tooth with receded gums. This procedure eliminates the need for a secondary doner site.

  • Free gingival graft. For this grafting procedure, the specialist harvests tissue from the roof of the mouth and attach it to the exposed root.

  • Connective tissue graft. The tissue for the graft is also taken from the palate but it uses the tissue underneath called the connective tissue layer.

  • Chao pinhole technique. This is a new technique that was developed by Dr Chao where you lift up all of the gums and pull it down to cover the exposed tooth roots. The advantage of this technique is that you do not need to cut any tissue and harvest it for the receded sites.

Home treatment

If you are not able to see a dentist, there are temporary home remedies that you can use for exposed tooth roots. These home treatments will not fix the exposed roots permanently but you can at least attain sensitivity relief while you use these techniques.

  • Avoiding foods that trigger sensitivity. If you simply avoid eating hot, cold, sweet, sour, acidic, and spicy foods that cause you pain or sensitivity, the exposed nerves won't bother you as much.

  • Use a sensitivity toothpaste such as sensodyne. The anti-sensitivity ingredient in sensodyne toothpaste is potassium nitrate and it works by blocking the dentinal tubules, which send sensitivity signals to the nerve. The potassium nitrate will provide a desensitizing effect for your exposed tooth roots for as long as you use the toothpaste. Once you stop using it, the desensitizing effect will dissipate.

  • Use a nano-hydroxyapatite toothpaste. This relatively new toothpaste is made of hydroxyapatite, which your enamel is composed of 90% of it. Your dentin is composed of 70% of it. The toothpaste provides hydroxyapatite, which can be used to repair and remineralize the tooth. Studies have also shown that it has a desensitizing effect when used because it can repair and block the sensitivity tubules. In addition to that, the hydroxyapatite creates a layer of it over the tooth, which further protects the tooth from sensations such as hot, cold, sweet, sour, acidic, and spicy.

Our long island city dentists would like to reiterate that these home remedies are only temporary because once you stop using them, the desensitizing effect will stop. You must keep using the above 3 techniques if you want to maintain the pain relief.

How to prevent an exposed tooth root from getting worse

The only way to prevent the root from getting more exposed is to stop the activity, which is causing it.

  • Teeth grinding - if you are grinding, you need to have a night guard made by your dentist so that it relieves the pressure on your teeth.

  • Aggressive brushing - you must switch to a soft bristled tooth brush and brush more gentle so that the gums don't get injured further. If you don't trust yourself, you can buy an electric powered brush that will automatically stop spinning if you apply too much pressure.


Hopefully that answers all the questions that you have on this subject. Basically, an exposed tooth root is usually caused by gum recession which may be from gum disease or other contributory factors. Treatment for it can be completed by either a restorative dentist or a gum specialist but if you are unable to see a dentist, there are home remedies to stave off the sensitivity from the exposed root.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact one of our dentists in long island city for a consultation!

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