The Many Layers of Teeth

Every day, we encounter our teeth. We see them in the mirror, use them for eating, and touch them while speaking. However, if you look at your teeth on the surface, you will only see one part of a complex structure. In fact, your teeth are made of several layers to make one healthy whole. 

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The Enamel

The first layer of your tooth is the one that you can see with your eyes. We call the whitish layer on the outside of your tooth the enamel. While each layer of your tooth has an important function, the enamel is vital for a healthy tooth. The enamel protects the inner portions of your tooth from bacteria and other harmful substances. Without strong enamel, your teeth are more susceptible to tooth decay and damage. 

The Dentin

Between the enamel and the inner portion of your tooth, there is a layer known as dentin. This layer has tiny tubes that connect the enamel to the pulp. Its function is to support the structure of the enamel and to pass information to the nerves. Because of the tubes, the pulp can receive information, such as temperature and pressure, in order to protect your teeth. 

The Pulp

The pulp is the portion of the tooth that is “alive.” It contains the blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissues to help the tooth function. If there is damage to the pulp, the tooth can die, needing extraction. When the enamel thins or breaks, the pulp will become sensitive to temperatures and pressure, which is why you feel pain. 

Common Concerns

Decay is one of the more common conditions that plague teeth. While there are several causes of tooth decay, one of the most likely culprits is plaque. Plaque is a type of harmful bacteria that sticks to the surface of teeth. If you do not remove it, plaque will begin to destroy your enamel. One way that it does this is by creating an acid that erodes your teeth. Eventually, tiny pits of decay (cavities) will form on the surface of your teeth. 

For treatment, you will need to get a dental filling from your dentist. First, they will drill out the decay to prevent further damage. Then, they will fill the tooth with a composite resin to provide structure to your tooth. 

Another issue that you should consider is gum disease. While gum disease does not immediately affect your teeth, it can damage them over time. Gum disease is an infection of the gums that slowly damages the soft tissues. Generally, plaque is the leading cause of gum disease. It causes swelling and inflammation that will continue to irritate the gums until you seek treatment. 

Eventually, the gums will begin to recede, exposing the root of the tooth. Unfortunately, this can leave you more susceptible to developing tooth decay within the root of your tooth. 

Most issues concerning your teeth can be prevented with a good oral hygiene routine. 

Author: Dr. Desbordes