Like most things, your teeth are more than they seem. For instance, did you know that the color of your tooth isn’t dictated by the enamel that surrounds it? On the contrary, tooth enamel is translucent, and the color you see is the dentin that makes up the majority of your tooth’s structure. Knowing that may help some patients understand why whitening treatments don’t brighten their teeth as well as they do for the smiles of others. In fact, your Lake Forest dentist warns that knowing how your teeth are built, and what may happen if you allow your dental hygiene to become lax, can help you understand how to better care for them.
Top to Bottom
A typical tooth is comprised of a top and bottom, or crown and root, respectively. The crown sits above the gum line, and is responsible for biting, chewing, speaking, and decorating your smile. A tooth’s root(s) extends underneath the gum line and into a socket within the jawbone. Strong, flexible periodontal ligaments hold the tooth’s root within the socket, and when pressure stimulates the root, the stimulation encourages the body to send the jawbone minerals and nutrients. When a tooth’s crown is damaged or has been treated for a cavity, Dr. Fondriest may recommend placing a dental crown over the tooth once the infection has been cleaned away.
The Multi-Layered Tooth
Your teeth’s crowns are also more complex than they appear at first sight. The top part of a tooth consists of layers, the outermost one being enamel. Made mostly of calcium, phosphate, and other minerals, tooth enamel is the most resilient substance that your body produces. Aside from withstanding the pressures of biting and chewing, enamel is also your teeth’s first defense against harmful oral bacteria, which cause cavities to form when they infect your tooth’s dentin. As the main structure of your tooth, dentin surrounds and protects the tooth’s nerves and blood vessels, called the pulp, that are connected the roots extending into the jawbone.
Invading Your Tooth’s Structure
Before oral bacteria can gain a hold of your tooth, they must first slip past its formidable enamel. The microbe, Streptococcus mutans, a major contributor to dental plaque, consumes sugar and carbohydrates from your meal and converts them into acid. As it coats your teeth, the acid weakens your enamel and depletes your teeth of minerals so that they can’t replenish enamel. Over time, enamel can develop weak spots, and then holes that allow bacteria to slip past it. As the internal tooth infection (tooth decay) eats away at your tooth’s structure, cavities will form and grow larger until they’re treated. If decay is caught early, Dr. Fondriest can remove the infected tooth structure, thoroughly clean the cavity of lingering bacteria, and then fill the cavity with a tooth-colored filling. In severe cases where infection has reached the tooth’s pulp, a root canal procedure may be necessary to stop the infection from spreading to nearby tissues. A fabricated dental crown can fit over the treated tooth to reinforce it against biting and chewing in the future.
Life-Like Replacement Teeth with Dental Implants
Even with the advancement of modern dental care, tooth loss remains a significant problem among adults today. When it comes to replacing lost teeth, dental implants most closely resemble your teeth’s structure by replacing the roots that supported them. While dental bridges and dentures have long replaced the crowns of lost teeth, dental implants can now offer your replacement teeth that support that roots give your healthy teeth.
About Lake Forest Dental Arts:
Aside from providing expert family and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from Chicago and all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.