Enjoying a long run with rave reviews is The Tooth.
Taken together, teeth constitute an engineering marvel. Individually, each tooth is an elegant design of function and beauty in three parts. Let’s look behind the scenes.
Cue the overture, bring up the curtain. Presenting: The Tooth.
Act I: Enamel
The spotlight is on the brilliant enamel!
The hardest tissue in the body is enamel. Enamel consist of parallel, near-translucent rods of calcium and other minerals. This crystalline structure can take on most foods. However, chomping on other crystals – such as ice or hard candy – can fracture the enamel. Let’s not cut the enamel from the show.
Enamel does not like acid. Acids eat away at the enamel structure. Acidic foods, such as lemons, over time can damage enamel. Moderate your intake of acids.
The acid most likely to beat up enamel is from bacterial plaque. The bacteria take up the sugar in your diet, break the sugars apart for the energy, and spit out the waste, which is acid. This is where cavities come from: Germ poop.
Toothbrushing mechanically takes off the bacteria and their acids. Saliva buffers the acids and has antibodies that attack the bacteria. Fluoride binds the minerals in the enamel, thus making the structure more resistant to bacterial onslaught.
But the defense you have most control over is your diet. The American diet is terribly high in sugars. Watch what you eat and drink. Read labels. Pare down sugars. It won’t kill you to skip the colas and candy. Eat some veggies and proteins.
Your enamel will applaud you.
Act II: Dentin
The plot takes a twist at the dentin.
Beneath the enamel is another hard tissue called dentin. Dentin is not as hard as enamel and contains more organic material than enamel. Due to these two facts, dentin is more susceptible to decay. A cavity slowly eats away the enamel, but once in the dentin, the cavity balloons out and feasts on your tooth. Poor dentin. See the above advice on brushing, using fluoride, and avoiding sugar.
Exposed dentin can be frightfully sensitive, especially at the root. Let us know if you’re having sensitivity issues. We, the backstage crew, can help.
A short intermission, then the finale.
Act III: Pulp
Enter the dark, mysterious setting of the pulp.
The most interior layer of the tooth is the pulp. Pulp is soft tissue, where the supporting cells of the tooth reside. The pulp is lodged in the hard casing of the dentin, so if the pulp is damaged due to decay or trauma, it’s trapped and dies. This would lead to extraction or root canal treatment.
How can you avoid these villians? For one, wear a mouthguard during contact sports.
Oh, and another, stay away from that dratted sugar! Brush and floss. These things help all three parts of your tooth.
One last encore: To head off potential problems, get your regular dental check-ups.