Are Your Teeth Alive? The Anatomy of a Tooth
Although it may not seem like, each of your teeth is alive. They don’t have external nerves, nor do they typically bleed when chipped or suffering from a cavity. Nonetheless, every tooth in your mouth is a living part of your body. Unlike non-living structures, such as hair, teeth have interior nerves and blood supplies. Let’s take a look at the anatomy of your teeth so you can better understand how your teeth function and how to protect them.
Every tooth has three main parts: the crown, the neck, and the root. The crown of the tooth is the white portion above the gumline. It can be easy to confuse the crown with a crown restoration that goes over this part of the tooth to provide reinforcement and protection from further decay.
The neck is a small area between the crown and root. The neck is usually right below the gumline, but you may be able to see this area if your gums or receding or retracted due to periodontal disease. Finally, the root is the portion of a tooth that anchors the tooth into the bone of the jaw. The root is typically not visible on an intact tooth.
Enamel is the outer layer of the crown and neck. Although enamel is the hardest substance in your body, it can be worn away by the action of harmful bacteria. When this occurs, a cavity is the result. There are no nerves in the enamel, but cavities can penetrate down to the dentin, the layer of the tooth beneath the enamel. Pain often occurs when dentin is exposed, especially if the tooth is subjected to hot or cold temperatures.
Deep inside a tooth, beneath the dentin, is the pulp chamber. This chamber extends from the crown into the roots of the tooth. The pulp chamber contains blood vessels and nerves. Although the nerves are located deep in the interior of a tooth, some people experience sensitivity to temperature changes even without tooth decay. During a root canal, your dentist removes infected pulp and cleans the pulp chamber to preserve your tooth and put a stop to the infection.
Each tooth sits in a “pocket” in your jaw bone. If periodontal disease becomes severe, you can start to lose the bone that makes up these pockets. If this occurs, your teeth may become loose or even fall out.
Every part of your teeth is vital, from the crowns to the roots and pulp. Make certain you take care of your teeth with daily brushing and flossing, and don’t neglect your regular visits to your dentist. Your teeth may be strong and durable, but they are also irreplaceable.