The Anatomy of a Tooth
Aside from changing the look of your smile, crooked teeth can cause health problems as well. Correcting them is important for the good of your smile and the health of your entire body.
You rely on your teeth for more than you might realize. In addition to helping you to chew, the teeth play an essential role in helping you to speak, enunciate properly, and to keep your body healthy and strong. To makes sure your teeth will never fail you, you should learn to take the best care of them you can--which means learning their structures and how they work. Here is a breakdown of the teeth and how damage can affect them.
Above the Gums
The crown is the visible portion of the tooth. Damage to the crown can introduce oral bacteria into the vascular portion of the tooth, which is why you should avoid dental chips and fractures or get them repaired immediately. Depending on the location of the tooth, crowns can be shaped differently. For example, front teeth tend to be thinner and sharper to pierce foods, while back molars have wide, rough bases to mash and tear.
Healthy teeth are covered in bright white, shiny enamel, composed of a mineral called hydroxyapatite. At a 5 on the Moh's hardness scale, dental enamel is harder than other durable elements like iron, gold, and platinum. Unfortunately, if plaque and tartar aren’t removed from the surface of the teeth, bacteria can collect on the enamel and produce acids that can erode it, paving the way for cavities and infections.
Inside the Tooth
Dentin is made up of living cells that secrete a hard mineral substance that helps to keep the teeth strong. Dentin is softer than enamel and contains microscopic tubules. Unfortunately, when cavities form, the porous nature of dentin allows bacteria to infuse the tooth, creating dental pain and leading to problems like nerve damage. Exposed dentin can also make the teeth exceptionally sensitive, which is why aggressive brushing is discouraged: you can actually remove enamel and expose dentin over time.
The innermost portion of your tooth is the pulp chamber, which houses a network of blood vessels that keep your teeth alive. Damage to the tooth from impact or injury can cut off this blood supply or introduce infection to the area, which can kill the tooth and make it change color.
Also located inside the pulp chamber, nerves help the tooth to detect dangers, such as overly hot or cold foods, physical damage, or oral decay. Nerve bundles can also be found within the periodontal ligaments which attach the teeth to the gums, helping people to know when the underlying structure of their tooth is in danger.
Under the Gums
Dental roots are the portion of the tooth that extends into the jaw, and they are much longer than most people realize. About 2/3 of your tooth is root. Nerves and blood vessels run from the tip of each root to the tooth's central pulp chamber, keeping the soft inner tissues alive.
Cementum is the mineral covering on the outside of the dental root. Although hard, it is not as hard as dentin. Naturally produced by the tooth itself, cementum is a calcified, avascular tissue. The area where cementum meets the dental enamel of the crown is referred to as the cemento-enamel junction. Problems with cementum include an overproduction of cementum, which can make the tooth rough, uncomfortable, or loose.
Teeth are connected to the jawbone by two components: your periodontal ligament and the alveolar bone. The periodontal ligament is made up of collagen fibers that consist of around 70% water. The strength of these fibers is what determines your tooth’s ability to withstand impact and movement. Unfortunately, poor oral hygiene can create an inflammatory response in the gum tissue that can damage the periodontal ligament, resulting in loose or missing teeth.
The alveolar bone is an especially dense, hard type of bone that attaches your teeth to your jawbone. The alveolar bone contains a row of sockets to provide more support to the teeth. Unfortunately, bone loss due to periodontal disease or simple aging can make the alveolar bone less stable, which can result in tooth loss.
For more information about dental anatomy, make an appointment with Advanced Dental Concepts today. Dr. Sander White, your premier dentist in Broomall PA, will evaluate the health of your teeth and help you keep your smile healthy and comfortable.