The Development and Structure of tooth and teeth
Our teeth serve us day in and day out, usually without complaint or problem unless we do them some serious damage. How many times do we usually think of our teeth? What, maybe twice a year when we have to go to the dentist? When they start hurting beyond reason, or when we find out we've gotten a dreaded cavity?
However, by taking just a tiny bit of time to learn more about them, we can make them last longer than the rest of us.
Each tooth is a complex example of biological engineering.
It has a soft core of dental pulp, surrounded by spongy, porous dentin, all encapsulated above the gumline by the hardest substance in the human body, dental enamel. Below the gumline, another material called cementum simultaneously protects the tooth and anchors it to the jawbone. The lack of any given layer would condemn the tooth to death.
To start with the innermost core, dental pulp is made up of blood vessels, nerves, and specialized cells that produce both dentin and cementum. Enamel is produced during fetal development, and the enamel that you have is all you're ever going to get. However, because both dentin and cementum are less durable, the pulp continues to produce these two substances throughout life.
The pulp is also the part of the tooth most subject to dangerous infection and abscesses. When it finally becomes infected, a root canal and tooth replacement is usually necessary to prevent further damage.
The Dentin Layer of teeth
Dentin is a spongy, porous form of specialized bone created to provide shock absorbing cushions for dental enamel, which is quite brittle. It surrounds the entirety of the pulp and is capped by dental enamel above and cementum below the gumline.
Dentin also continues to grow throughout life, and will do so more quickly due to outside stimuli such as cavity formation.
However, it's also much more susceptible to quick decay and damage because of its delicate internal structure.
The Cementum Layer of teeth
Cementum is almost as hard as enamel, but also continues to grow throughout life from cells in the pulp.
This allows for continual reattachment of the periodontal ligament to the bottom of the tooth, and provides for a measure of healing for victims of periodontal disease if caught early enough.
It's made up of a layer of hard stratum and a layer of cells that slowly rotate out.
It's only found on the underside of the tooth, below the gum layer, and is thickest at the bottom point of the tooth.
The Dental Enamel Layer of Teeth
Dental enamel covers the entire top of the tooth, and is very hard, very brittle, and slightly translucent.
If the underlying dentin has started to decay or change color, the change is frequently visible through the enamel.
It's thickest within the cusp of any tooth, and thinnest both at the visible edges of teeth and right below the gumline where it gives way to cementum.
Because dental enamel has a very dense mineral structure, it's highly susceptible to acidic damage, which is how most cavities start.
While many people think that the amount of sugar ingested is the problem, frequency of sugar ingestion is actually more of a problem. The more frequently that sugar is eaten, the longer the interior of the mouth gets and remains acidic.
In addition, dental enamel can be worn away by other acids such as lemon juice and excessive abrasion from dental hygeine efforts. In other words, excessive toothbrushing can be just as damaging as frequent sugar.
Proper care of teeth is important
By learning how teeth work and how to take care of them properly, you can mostly avoid everything from cavities to periodontal disease to dentures.
Enjoy your teeth and all the wonderful foods they let you eat!
Research and main write by Loni L. Ice, quality control, editing and additional writing by D. S. Urquhart.
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