A Crash Course in Dental Anatomy
How much do you know about the anatomy of your own teeth?
Let’s give you a quick overview. We believe that the more our patients know, the better they’ll understand how important good dental health habits are, including brushing, flossing, and cutting back on sugary treats. Our lesson will start at the crown and work down to the roots. The visible parts of our teeth are the crowns, and they are made up of three different layers.
On the outside is the protective enamel layer. It is mostly composed of inorganic materials like hydroxyapatite crystals, which makes it the hardest substance in the human body. It needs to be that hard to chew a lifetime of food.
Enamel’s weakness is that despite being very hard, it is also brittle and vulnerable to acid. It cannot repair or replace itself if it is damaged or eroded too much. That’s why it’s so critical to brush and floss daily and limit the amount of acidic and sugary foods and drinks we consume. Professional cleanings are also incredibly beneficial.
Beneath the enamel is the dentin, which is much more like normal bone. It has a more yellow color than tooth enamel. Microscopic tubules run through it to connect the nerves at the center of the tooth with the enamel, which is how we can detect temperature changes through our teeth. If the enamel erodes, those tubules become more exposed and the nerves get much more input than they like (which is how tooth sensitivity works).
The Pulp at the Center
At the core of every tooth is the pulp chamber, which is where the blood vessels and nerves are. Pulp is the living part of a tooth. As mentioned above, it’s how we feel the temperature of our food. It’s also how we feel pain when there’s a problem with a tooth (so treat tooth pain like the natural warning sign it is and get to a dentist).
Down to the Roots
The roots of our teeth extend deep beneath our gums and are anchored firmly in our jaws. The periodontal membrane serves as a cushion between the tooth and the bone so that the pressure of chewing doesn’t damage them. Unlike crowns, roots lack protective enamel. Instead, they have the gum tissue (when it is healthy) and a calcified layer called cementum. The tip of each root has a tiny hole through which the blood vessels and nerves can access the pulp chamber.
Keeping Teeth Healthy from Crowns to Roots
From the crown of each tooth down to the supporting periodontal structures, we need to keep our teeth healthy, and that means brushing and flossing thoroughly to protect the enamel and gums. Regular dental appointments play a critical role too!