We all know that we need to keep our teeth clean, and that they can get cavities, but did you know that teeth are complex and very interesting?
They seem like bone but are not. They contain the hardest substance in the human body, and parts of them are alive.
They are necessary for biting, chewing and grinding so we can digest our food, but also essential for speech. They are made up of many parts, and each one is unique with a special purpose.
Enamel is the outer white part of the crown that protects the tooth and is the hardest substance in the human body. It is mostly made up of calcium phosphate and looks like bone. Unfortunately, enamel does not have living cells like bone and cannot regrow and repair itself like bone does. That is why it is so important to take great care of your teeth. Minor demineralization can be reversed with proper nutrition and oral care, but once enamel decays or is damaged, only a dentist can repair it.
Dentin is the layer beneath the enamel and cementum and makes up a lot of the tooth. Dentin has millions of tiny tubes called tubules. If enamel decays enough, heat, cold and acidic or sticky foods stimulate the nerves through the tubules, and this is the most common cause of tooth sensitivity and pain. While dentin is still considered a hard tissue, it is softer than enamel, and once decay gets through the enamel it spreads quickly through the dentin.
Cementum is the outer layer of the root and helps protect the root like the enamel protects the crown of the tooth. It also attaches to the ligaments that anchor the tooth to the bone. Cementum is not as thick or hard as enamel and can be abraded by bristles of a stiff toothbrush. It can be another cause of sensitivity to heat and cold if it is exposed because the gums recede.
The pulp is a soft, living tissue in the center of the tooth which contains the nerves and blood vessels. The part of the pulp in the crown is called the pulp chamber, and in the root, it is called the pulp canal or root canal. The pulp is the living part of the tooth, and it is usually very painful if decay reaches it. Decay here can lead to a bacterial infection and usually requires a root canal to save the tooth.
Nerves and blood vessels in the pulp travel from the tooth to the jawbone. The blood vessels supply the tooth with moisture and nutrients, and nerves send signals of pain or sensitivity to your brain. These signals are meant to protect your tooth when it experiences extreme hot or cold temperatures, pressure or trauma.
Cells at the edge of the pulp, called odontoblasts, form dentin. You can see these amazing living tooth cells in the image below.
Now that you know how important each part of your tooth is, be sure to care for your teeth with proper nutrition, a good brushing and flossing routine and regular dental checkups.
Click here for tips on teaching your child how to brush their teeth, and here to learn when your child should see a dentist.
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.