The human tooth is an incredible feat of nature. It is highly specialized and engineered to stand up to the extremely strong chewing forces for a whole lifetime. The natural tooth has three unique layers:
- the inner pulp,
- the middle dentin layer. and
- the outermost enamel cover.
Each of these layers provides it’s own specific properties to the tooth as a whole.
The pulp contains the blood vessels, nerves, and lymph channels. Even though the tooth appears to be hard as a rock, it is still living material. The pulp layers supplies the tooth with “live” and enables it to respond to injury. Around the pulp is the middle ‘dentin layer’.
The biggest part of the tooth’s mass is dentin. This layer is highly organic and contains a large amount of collagen through which it provides the tooth with flexibility and compliance. In other words, it allows the tooth to be hard and still bend without breaking. This layer of dentin is also directly attached to the nerves. This is the reason that when it becomes exposed we experience tooth sensitivity.
The outermost part of the tooth is the enamel layer. It is the hard shiny coating. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. Through it, the tooth gains its strength and rigidity. It also covers the dentin layer to prevent its rapid aging due to the harsh environment in the oral cavity. Without the enamel, the tooth would be floppy and we would not be able to bite firm fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots. The optimal combination of the dentin and enamel layers provides the teeth with the perfect blend of stiffness, strength, and resilience.
The main challenge of a population that is getting older and wants to keep more of its natural teeth are age related changes in tooth structure. Through the natural aging process the original enamel thickness gets smaller over time. A loss of strength, color changes and even cracking are some of the adverse effects caused by these changes. This knowledge, combined with access to high-performance modern dental materials, allows modern dentistry to correct these changes. With the correct treatment it is now ensured that we can keep our teeth strong, attractive and free of sensitivity. These modern treatments, if started early enough are typically very conservative, safe and, best of all, pain-free.