Our teeth are amazing, and while we all know how important it is to practice a daily oral hygiene routine and visit our dentists regularly to ensure good oral health, few of us truly understand what makes up a tooth. Knowing more about your teeth will help you understand how to better care for them, and what an important role they play in our overall health and wellbeing.
The enamel of the tooth is the outside layer that protects the internal parts of the tooth. Enamel is a remarkably strong material. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that it is actually the hardest substance in your entire body. Made up of calcium phosphate and other minerals, enamel is an extremely strong and durable material that acts as an effective outer layer on each tooth. Enamel is bacteria-resistant as long as it remains healthy. Even though it’s strong, however, enamel can be worn away over a period of years if it’s not properly cleaned or if it’s exposed to too much acidity that occurs normally in many foods and drinks. Many dentists recommend use of fluoride as an excellent way to strengthen weakened enamel.
Underneath the enamel layer of the tooth is dentin, the bone-like material that most of a tooth is made from. Any exposed dentin on a tooth’s surface is very susceptible to decay. Exposed dentin can also cause tooth sensitivity.
The coating that wraps around the root of a tooth is called cementum. Although similar to enamel, cementum is a much softer material. Its job is to help anchor the root of the tooth to the jawbone.
Just as the name applies, the root of a tooth keeps it firmly planted in the jawbone. Without healthy roots, teeth could never endure the pressure that they are exposed to every day when a person chews food. Roots are particularly susceptible to damage from gum disease. If that condition is left untreated, it can impact the roots of teeth and tooth loss can occur.
The pulp of a tooth is located inside the root. Pulp works to keep blood and nutrients flowing to the tooth. Although pulp plays a vital role in keeping a healthy tooth alive, it’s not actually necessary for the tooth to function in biting and chewing food. So when the pulp is damaged or infected, your dentist may recommend a root canal – a procedure to remove the pulp but save the rest of the tooth.
It’s easy to take our teeth for granted on a daily basis. But by understanding how remarkable the structure of each tooth really is, it can help us to appreciate the importance of taking care of them and helping them to last a lifetime.