Our teeth make up just a tiny portion of our bodies—so how is it that these little shards of calcium can be so sensitive and so easily damaged? In today’s post, our Hudson NC dentist will discuss basic tooth anatomy so patients can better understand how to care for them. Understanding tooth anatomy can also help patients better visualize common dental treatments like crowns, root canals, and implants.
The tooth is divided into two basic parts, the crown and the root. The crown is the part of the tooth that is visible above the gum line. The shape of the crown varies according to the function of the tooth. Incisors cut food; canines tear it; and molars and premolars crush it.
Teeth are made of four major tissues: dentin, dementum, dental pulp, and enamel. We discuss the purpose and structure of each below.
Enamel is the hardest and most highly mineralized substance of the body. It is primarily made of hydroxyapatite, a form of calcium apatite which also occurs naturally in the earth. The high mineral amount in enamel makes it extremely strong, but, interestingly, also makes it very brittle. Dentin, which is less mineralized and therefore less brittle, is necessary to support the enamel.
Dentin is a porous, yellowish material that lies beneath the enamel. Dentin is is more sensitive, decays more rapidly, and is more subject to cavities that enamel, which is why it has that outer protection. The reason why dentin is so sensitive is that it has microscopic channels, called dentinal tubules, which radiate outward from the pulp cavity to the enamel border. This is why, in some occasions, patients who have had root canals or crowns will still report pain or sensitivity—the primary root has been removed, but the microscopic “tributaries” running through the tooth are still there. If the pain does not fade over time, the only solution is usually a total extraction.
While the crown of the tooth is covered and protected by enamel, the root of the tooth is covered and protected by cementum. Cementum plays a significant role in anchoring your teeth to the jawbone, by providing a place for periodontal ligaments to attach. Like enamel, cementum can also be eroded and lost due to inadequate oral hygiene, resulting in tooth pain and discomfort.
The dental pulp is the “root” of the tooth that is removed during a root canal. It is full of soft connective tissues and nerves, which enter through a hole in the apex of the root. Although this sensitivity can cause us discomfort, like all pain, it is necessary to help us avoid doing damage to ourselves. When we bite on a substance that’s too hard, too hot, or too cold, the pain informs us to stop before too much damage occurs. Unfortunately, it’s also this sensitivity that causes us to feel so much pain when our teeth are damaged or broken.
If you are looking for a dentist in Hudson NC, stop by Hudson Family Dentist. Our goal is to provide you with the best oral health care in the area. To schedule a general dentist appointment, click here.