Are My Teeth Alive?

Dark-haired woman with her hair in a top bun smiles with white, living teeth in front of a red brick wall

Have you ever stopped to wonder if your teeth are alive? Read on to discover the truth behind your tooth’s biology and anatomy!

Are My Teeth Alive?

It may seem strange, but your teeth ARE alive. Each tooth is essentially another organ in your body that requires special care so that they don’t die. And if your adult teeth die, your only option for a fully functioning smile is restorative dentistry. By taking preventative measures now (like brushing and flossing daily, eating a healthy diet, and visiting our dental office every six months), you fight against tooth decay and gum disease, which will help prevent tooth death and possible loss. The condition of your mouth affects other organs in your body too. Be sure to do all you can to keep your teeth alive and healthy!

Anatomy of a Tooth

  1. Enamel
  2. Enamel is the hard, visible “coat of armor” that covers your tooth above your gums. This nonliving protective barrier is composed of minerals and cannot regenerate, so it’s important to protect it from demineralization and erosion. Keep it strong by drinking plenty of water with acidic foods and beverages, limiting your consumption of sugary foods and drinks, and brushing gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.

  3. Cementum
  4. Cementum is another protective tooth layer, but it is not quite as hard as enamel and surrounds the roots of your teeth instead of the chewing surface. This layer stabilizes your tooth by attaching to the periodontal ligament, the fibers that anchor your tooth into your jawbone.

  5. Dentin
  6. Directly under the enamel and cementum is the dentin, which makes up the majority of your tooth’s structure. This layer contains hundreds of small pipe-like tubes filled with water. Each tube connects to a nerve ending in the inner tooth, or pulp chamber. These connections allow your brain to safely coordinate the chewing process in response to your tooth’s detection of pressure. Untreated decay leads to demineralization of your enamel and dentin and the stimulation of your dentine’s tubules, which causes tooth sensitivity. Exposed dentin reacts painfully to extreme temperatures, sweets, metal, and pressure.

  7. Pulp Chamber
  8. The innermost portion of each tooth is what’s alive. It is a sterile chamber that houses the pulp, a soft bundle of connective tissue and your tooth’s nerves and blood vessels. A passageway, called the root canal, along either side of your tooth’s root allows these vessels to run from the central pulp chamber into your jaw. The pulp chamber will become infected if bacteria access it via the dentine’s tubules. This can occur if untreated decay on your tooth’s surface eats through the enamel into the dentine layer. A cracked tooth also opens up a path for bacteria to spread to your pulp.

How Do I Know If My Tooth Is Dead?

A tooth dies if it is starved of the nutrients provided by adequate blood flow. A bacterial infection that spreads into your tooth’s pulp chamber from untreated tooth decay will disrupt blood flow. Physical trauma to your mouth can also damage and burst blood vessels in your teeth. (Ask us about our custom-fitted mouthguards to protect your mouth from trauma during sports and nighttime teeth grinding!) Although some teeth with a dead inner pulp will become discolored, a dental X-ray will be needed for confirmation.

What Can Be Done for My Dead Tooth?

If your tooth’s pulp is dead, our dentists will determine the best course of treatment for you to have a healthy and functional smile once again. You may only need root canal therapy; during this procedure, we’ll remove the damaged pulp inside your tooth in order to save your natural outer tooth. However, if the inner damage is too extensive, we will need to extract your tooth entirely. But if this is the case, our office offers many options to replace your lost tooth, such as a long-lasting and natural-looking dental implant.

We Will Help You Have a Healthy Smile!

Practice excellent at-home preventive care and come see us soon to confirm your mouth is healthy and cavity-free. If your dental decay has already gotten out of hand, don’t worry—our team can get your oral health back on track. Contact us to schedule your next appointment today!

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