Most people think of their teeth as hard pieces of bone-like material that enable anyone in good oral health to chew effectively, cutting and grinding different types of food. Those who have lost teeth know that they also have a function in pronouncing words clearly–and wearing dentures does not entirely solve that challenge.
Many will be surprised to know that teeth are much more complicated than they appear. Wikipedia needs 19 pages to summarize their structural complexity and why dentistry is such a challenging medical specialty to keep them and their supporting tissues and bone healthy.
There are four types of permanent teeth, which usually erupt from age six months to two years: incisors that cut food, canines that tear it, and molars and premolars that crush. Their roots are embedded in the jawbone and the teeth remain firm and upright, supported by the gums, if oral health is maintained. An endodontist is a highly-trained specialist in addressing infections inside those roots, which can not only cause pain, but lead to the death of the tooth and the need to remove it.
But let’s dig in deeper and share what very few patients know about their teeth, so you can understand why we need to take great care of them. What we see as a teeth is the hard outside surface called the enamel, a highly-mineralized tissue that protects the innermost tissue, the pulp.
The next layer is the dentin, a yellowish porous tissue that is made up of 70% inorganic substances, 20% organic, and 10% water. It is softer than enamel and more at risk of developing cavities, but it provides further protection of the vulnerable pulp and support for the crown (top) of the tooth, which is enamel.
Another layer covering the roots is called cementum, which is a permeable combination of inorganic material, water, and a protein called collagen (which has been getting a lot of attention for its role in maintaining healthy bones, nails, skin, and hair). Cementum’s role is to enable periodontal ligaments to attach to teeth to give them stability.
That brings us to the pulp, the soft connective tissue at the core of a tooth that contains blood vessels and nerves, which enter the roots from a hole at the bottom of each. If a tooth is cracked from an injury, dental decay reaches the root, or extensive dental procedures cause bacteria to infect the pulp, we will use special equipment and tools to thoroughly clean it out and fill it with material that will help prevent further problems. Often, a crown made of tooth-like porcelain or other material will be placed on top to protect the root. Root canal therapy is 90% successful, making it one of the most successful procedures in dentistry.
Symptoms that the pulp has become inflamed may be sensitivity to hot or cold beverages or food, pain when chewing, and swelling or redness of the gums around that tooth. Fortunately, we can stop the pain and further damage that could lead to the tooth being lost if you come into our office as soon as possible. NYC Endodontics services the areas of Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Jersey City, Hoboken, and Fort Lee. We look forward to seeing you soon.