Do Braces Make TOOTH Roots Shorter? (2020)

Do braces make the roots of your teeth shorter?. Root shortening, or the literal shortening of the roots of the teeth, is commonly caused by a process called “root resorption” in which the root structure of the teeth breaks down or gets destroyed and experiences subsequent loss. Orthodontic treatment is a known cause of root shortening, so it’s natural to wonder whether or not braces cause root resorption.


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Braces: How They Work

To understand the effect that orthodontic appliances have on the roots of teeth, it’s helpful to understand first how they work. Braces exert pressure on the teeth, creating small clamps around each individual tooth. When this occurs, the force exerted on the teeth triggers an immune response that leads the body to create certain enzymes. These enzymes produce inflammation that can make bones dissolve and reform. This produces a hardening of the bone on one side and a softening on the other, thereby allowing the teeth to move over time. All this is the normal and expected functioning of orthodontic appliances.


How This Affects Roots

According to research, when the teeth move, small alterations can occur that affect the length and shape of the roots of those teeth. 98% of which can’t even be observed by the eye. In the other 2% of cases, when the change is observable to the eye. It’s still a natural consequence from using the orthodontic appliances, but it indicates that those particular patients are more prone to root resorption. In either case, orthodontically induced inflammatory root resorption (OIIRR). The condition has been termed, is a real and legitimate potential consequence of using orthodontic appliances and should be taken into consideration when deciding how to proceed with one’s orthodontic care.


Other Root Resorption Risk Factors

Genetics plays a role in the potential for root shortening as well. Root resorption can be passed down through a family’s genes. Therefore, if another member of your family has experienced root shortening from using dental appliances, or has been diagnosed with root resorption by an orthodontist. You should notify your orthodontist right away, as you may genetically be more susceptible to root resorption happening to you too.


Is It Any Different With Invisalign Aligners?

Over the past several years, a great deal of research has been conducted into whether Invisalign poses any greater or lesser risk of root resorption over traditional orthodontic appliances. A landmark research study on this exact question was published by Dr. Robert L. Boyd, DDS, in the June 2009 issue of “Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry” called “Periodontal and Restorative Considerations with Clear Aligner Treatment to Establish a More Favorable Restorative Environment”

Examining numerous case studies and clinical trials. Boyd discovered that clear aligners were associated with significantly improved periodontal health throughout treatment. With minimal incidences of periodontal breakdowns, like root resorption, compared to standard fixed appliances. He found only one reported case of root resorption using clear aligners. Compared with numerous incidents of root resorption occurring in patients with traditionally fixed aligners. While increased occurrences of bone resorption, at a rate of about 1 millimeter per millimeter of tooth movement, is attributed to using traditional orthodontic appliances, Invisalign applies much less torque in order to achieve tooth movement. This creates less mobility in the tooth, which in turn creates less potential for an enzyme reaction and subsequent inflammation.

Another study called “Root resorption during orthodontic treatment with Invisalign®: a radiometric study” reported in “Progress in Orthodontics” in May of 2017  found that, indeed, Invisalign aligners do present a risk of root resorption, however, that degree of risk is quite similar to that of using orthodontic light forces, the average root resorption found being less than 10% of the root’s original length. This validates the earlier research finding that Invisaligns pose less risk of root resorption than traditional orthodontic appliances.



A Caveat: Gentler Isn’t Always Sufficient

It is worth noting, however, that it is precisely the gentler nature of clear aligners. This makes them less prone to causing root shortening that also makes them potentially less effective for many orthodontic uses. Clear aligners are best for small, slow and gradual tooth movement without any other interfering orthodontic indications. For example, in cases where teeth have been removed and spaces between teeth must be closed, such a great degree of movement is necessary that even if clear aligners are used, the possibility of some measure of root resorption can’t be avoided.

That is why many orthodontists choose to use the two types of aligners in sequence. Using standard fixed aligners to produce larger movements and clear aligners for slighter, tipping movements.


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Can Root Shortening Be Treated or Prevented?

While root resorption and root shortening can be mitigated, it’s difficult to prevent without foregoing orthodontic treatment altogether. Certainly, using Invisalign whenever possible can reduce the risk of root shortening. It has also been found that root resorption tends to occur more when teeth are moved either too slowly or too quickly.

Beyond that, having orthodontist take regular x-rays of your mouth can help you both to stay on top of your periodontal status and catch any root resorption early on. From there, treatment methods involve ameliorating the problem, slowing and hopefully stopping the root resorption from occurring. However, any root shortening that has occurred before resorption is halted cannot be reversed.


Schedule Your First Appointment

At Childers Orthodontics in Illinois, we offer a variety of orthodontic treatments for adults, teenagers, and children. Dr. Kyle Childers is an orthodontist who provides expert treatments for malocclusions of the teeth. Schedule an appointment with us to learn more about:

  • Retainers – to keep teeth in place after treatment
  • Aligners – Invisalign devices for adults and teenagers
  • Braces – traditional or Damon system devices
  • Expanders – for the lower or upper jaw

We make it easy to undergo orthodontic treatment by having several locations, including:

  • Herrin – 618-997-1800
  • Harrisburg – 618-252-0770
  • Benton – 618-438-2815

We use the iTero scanner device to create the best fitting Invisalign aligners for your mouth. Our orthodontic team uses SureSmile archwires for braces. If you have a lower jaw that is too small for your permanent teeth, then make sure to contact us for an evaluation to learn more about lower jaw expansion. Schedule an appointment online or by calling (618) 438-2815.

Contact Us Today

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Childers Orthodontics
201 West Washington

Benton, IL 62812
Phone: (618) 438-2815

Do Braces Make TOOTH Roots Shorter? (2019)


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