Back to Basics:
As dentists, our job is to properly communicate various dental issues and recommendations with our patients. To improve our communication, it helps you to know some of the terms we use in describing some of the anatomy of the oral cavity, the problems that candevelop, and the steps you need to take to fix them.
The Anatomy of a Tooth:
- Enamel – Enamel is the hardest structure in the human body, and it covers the external surface of each tooth.
- Dentin – Dentin is the structure that lies between the enamel and the pulp. It forms the core substance of the tooth. It is softer than enamel and darker yellow in color. Dentin is responsible for giving teeth their color, and every person’s is different.
- Pulp – Pulp is the collection of blood vessels and nerves inside the hollow chamber of a tooth.
- Crown – The crown is the portion of the tooth that protrudes out of the gums. You could also describe the crown by stating that it is the part of the tooth that you can see. Enamel is only found on the crown of a tooth.
- Root – The root of the tooth is the portion anchored into the jawbone. Each tooth has a different shaped root. Molars have multiple roots, and the shape of the root is important in the tooth’s stability in the bone.
Other Dental Terms Defined:
What is a cavity? A cavity, or tooth decay, is the destruction of enamel and dentin by bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria in your mouth eat sugar and produce acid as a by-product. When the acid is allowed to stay in contact with the tooth surface for an extended period of time, it begins to eat its way through the enamel. Once it passes through the enamel layer, it begins to spread through the dentin. If the decay isn’t stopped, it will extend all the way to the pulp. Once it reaches the pulp, the nerves and blood vessels become infected.
What is a filling? When a cavity is removed from a tooth, the dentist ensures that he has removed all unhealthy enamel and dentist, leaving only solid, healthy enamel and dentin. This cavity removal process creates a hole in the tooth. The dentist repairs this hole by filling it with a dental restorative material to restore the normal shape, size and contour of a tooth. This allows you to use the tooth for normal function again.
What is a composite? Composite is a type of dental filling material. It is a resin polymer that forms a bond to the tooth structure. Composite requires a blue light to “cure” it (harden it after it has been formed to the proper shape).
What is plaque? Plaque is a soft material that accumulates on the teeth every single day. Plaque is made up of food particles, bacteria, and minerals present in your saliva. Plaque is easily removed with a SOFT toothbrush and floss, and it is attracted to rough surfaces.
What is tartar? Tartar, also called calculus, is a hard material that forms on the teeth from plaque that is not adequately removed. When plaque stays on a tooth surface for more than 24 hours, it begins to calcify or harden. This hardened substance is impossible to remove with a toothbrush or floss. It can only be removed by being scraped off by a dental hygienist or dentist. Tartar that is not removed causes periodontal disease.
What is gingivitis? Gingivitis, also called gum disease, is an inflammation of the gums, and it is almost always caused by plaque and/or tartar buildup at the gumline of the teeth. Gingivitis is characterized by swollen, red, painful or bleeding gums.
What is periodontal disease?Periodontal disease, if left untreated, will cause you to lose your teeth. When tartar accumulates on the teeth, it irritates the gum tissue and bone that help hold the tooth in place. This irritation, over time, causes destruction of the bone, which results in a lack of stability for the tooth. If periodontal disease is caught in its early stages, it can usually be easily treated in your dentist’s office. More advanced stages may need to be treated by a specialist called a periodontist. Periodontal disease can be “silent”, not causing any pain or discomfort, so it is important to see your dentist regularly.
What is bruxism? Bruxism is the term dentists use to describe the habit of clenching or grinding your teeth. It can occur at night or during the daytime, and it leaves noticeable signs inside your mouth. Your dentist can tell if you have this habit.
Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!