There's Much More To A Tooth Than What You SeeThere's Much More To A Tooth Than What You See

You use your teeth constantly and--if you practice good oral hygiene--brush them at least twice a day and floss them once a day. But how much do you really know about your teeth and what they need to remain healthy? Do you know what is beyond the enamel of a tooth or how a tooth is constructed? And what good would that knowledge really do?

Understanding your teeth will help you comprehend the importance of taking care of them beyond making sure that they are bright and white when you smile. These sturdy yet fragile structures in your mouth are often taken for granted even though they play a very important part in your digestive process and your ability to speak clearly and enunciate well.

There are several different parts to the structure of a tooth and each part plays an important role for maintaining both oral and overall health.

• The crown of a tooth is the portion that you see when you smile and the part that bites, tears and grinds your food when you eat--supporting your very crucial digestive system.

• Enamel is the white substance that encases the crown of the tooth and is the hardest substance in the entire body, even stronger than your bones.

• Just under the enamel of a tooth is a substance called dentin that is similar to your bones. This substance is filled with tiny nerve endings which are the reason that teeth can become sensitive to heat or cold when the enamel of a tooth becomes thin.

• The center of a tooth is made of a soft material called pulp. It is in this area of the tooth that the blood vessels and major nerve endings reside. This portion of the tooth is where the blood and nourishment that keeps the tooth alive is received.

• The part of the tooth that anchors it into the jawbone is called the tooth root and all of it is hidden under the crown, dentin, pulp and gums. Much like the root of a tree keeps it anchored to the ground, the root of a tooth secures it in the mouth and channels the supply of blood and nutrients to the pulp. A tooth can have from one to four roots depending on the size and location of the tooth.

• The periodontal ligament of a tooth provides a cushion between the tooth root and jawbone so that two hard substances are not resting against each other.

• The cementum, which contains periodontal membrane is not as hard as enamel but just as hard as bone, is connected to the jawbone by small elastic fibers.

• The gum tissue is the pink covering that conceals the tooth root and jawbone.

• The jawbone is also called the alveolar bone and it is the structure that feeds, protects and keeps the tooth securely in place.

By the time you were six years old, you had 20 primary teeth, but by the age of 13 you you're your "baby teeth" which were replaced by 32 permanent teeth. These 32 teeth have to last for the rest of your life (or be replaced by artificial teeth) and these small white structures need your help and support (along with the help and support of a dentist) to remain strong and healthy.
by Dr. Susan Wells
References and Bibliography
Susan Wells DMD practicing dentistry in Warrior, Alabama since 1978.  She treats patients for all aspects of general dentistry including preventive dental care oral hygiene instruction and full scale exams and cleanings. To find out more visit her site at http://DrSusanWells.com.
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