What are teeth made of?

Teeth and bone are the hardest substances in the human body and they both contain high amount of calcium. However, the vital difference is that bone is living tissue which can regenerate. Teeth are not living tissue but are made up of four types of tissue, enamel, dentin, pulp and cementum. Blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue are also contained within each tooth.

Structure of a tooth

The tooth consists of two main parts, the crown and the root.

Crown

This section of the tooth is above the gum line and the visible part is the outer layer of enamel. Enamel is strong enough to withstand biting and chewing but it is not made of living cells which means it cannot repair itself. By avoiding sugary and acidic foods, maintaining good cleaning (brushing and flossing), and having regular dental checks, you can help keep the enamel healthy.

Under the enamel is dentin which contains tiny tubules that link the outer enamel to the inner pulp. This helps us feel the temperature of our food and drinks. Sensitivity to hot and cold is felt when enamel is worn down.

The inner core of the tooth is the dental pulp chamber. Blood vessels in this pulp keep the tooth alive and the nerves provide sensation. This is where we get pain from when something is wrong. If decay reaches the pulp, pain is usually severe. By having regular dental visits, you can ensure that tooth decay and cavities are treated before you get pain.

Root

This is below the gumline and connects the tooth to the jaw bone. Roots are long and hollow with canals that link the nerve and blood vessels from the pulp to your body’s nervous and cardiovascular system. The root is protected by a thin, hard layer of cementum. If the gums are healthy and cover the root, the cementum provides sufficient protection. However, exposed roots (eg due to gum recession) are more prone to decay. Your dentist will check the condition of your gums and can help you to treat gum problems early.