What are our teeth made of, anyway? Most of us know that the outside of our teeth is made of enamel, and when we have a cavity; that is when decay has made its way through the enamel and into the inner part of the tooth, sometimes causing sensitivity, and generally requiring repair. Beneath the enamel is the substance that makes up the bulk of your tooth, the Dentin. This substance, though softer than the enamel that surrounds it, is denser and harder than your very bones, even though it is filled with tiny holes.
Dentin is also the substance that gives our teeth their color.Dentin can range in color from creamy ivory to pale yellow, and it is dentin that we try to lighten when we “whiten” teeth with over the counter or prescription treatments. Because dentin comes in different shades for different people, some people are simply always going to have teeth that are a slightly darker shade than others’. For this and other reasons, it is important to consult with your Marietta dentist before embarking on an extreme tooth-whitening regimen, as you can end up with complications like tooth sensitivity and other problems from overzealous whitening.
Beyond just giving our teeth their shape and making up the pearly in our pearly whites, Dentin provides structure and bulk surrounding the soft pulp and vulnerable nerve at the center of each tooth. Without dentin standing between our nerves and pulp and the outside world, every bite would be agony! We humans aren’t the only creatures with dentin, either. In fact, all mammals’ teeth are made up of similar structures, including dentin. Dentin is living tissue and is vulnerable to infection and decay, so any infection that reaches the dentin should be promptly treated. Without treatment, and infection that reaches the dentin can lead to septicemia, a systemic infection with serious health consequences.
Dentin is found in many places besides your mouth and the mouths of mammals all over the world. In fact, if you look around antique shops, music stores, museums, and many other places, you’ll also find dentin on display. The only difference is that it’s carved and we don’t call them “dentin carvings”. Ivory carvings? Dentin. Ivory piano keys? Dentin. Antique domino sets? Probably dentin.
In short, teeth are a lot more complex that we sometimes think. Far from being monolithic structures built only for grinding our food, the human tooth (and those of other species, as well) is a carefully constructed safe of hardened, living tissue, designed to protect the soft, vulnerable pulp and nerve within. The thin enamel shell that takes so much abuse from all the things we chew on (paper clips, pen tops, Yes– I’m looking at you, office guy) and suffers when we neglect to brush after our weekend candy-stravaganza, covers the thick, strong, but porous dentin shell that is the last line of defense keeping rot and decay away from the pulp and sensitive nerve within.
Be kind to your teeth and they will be kind to you.