Saturday, 21 September 2013
What’s in a Tooth?
A tooth is not made of a single material; rather it is made of three main layers of material. They are enamel, dentin and pulp. This post will take a closer look at these three layers and discuss these layers in relation to pain.
The outside layer of healthy teeth, as most people know, is enamel. This is a very hard and glassy substance that forms the outer protective layer to our teeth. It is what gives the teeth their natural shine, and it is also what gets stained by tobacco smoking and tobacco chewing. Enamel is resistant to chemicals and abrasion.
Below the enamel layer in a tooth is a layer of dentin. This layer contains tubes that hold nerve endings. This means that the dentin layer of a tooth feels pain. It is thus essential to make sure that the outer layer of enamel is not broken.
The innermost layer of a tooth is called pulp. When a dentist performs a root canal operation it is the pulp that he or she is dealing with. Pulp consists of nerves and blood vessels. This is the most delicate part of the tooth. The enamel and dentin layers make up about a quarter of an inch of the entire tooth.
Enamel doesn’t have any nerve endings and this feels no pain. This is why it doesn’t hurt when people with healthy teeth eat hot or cold food or chew food. By brushing your teeth regularly and by dental cleaning we can protect the enamel layer and avoid pain.
However, the enamel layer can get worn down by abrasion. This is caused by people grinding their teeth and also by eating coarse foods such as grains and foods with a husk. Other causes of eroded enamel are stomach acid and gum erosion.
Dentists can help patients with exposed dentine with a variety of bonding agents and tooth pastes. It is also possible to use Sensodyne toothpaste. This works by blocking off the dentine tubes. The best way to use Sensodyne is to rub it into the sore spot and leave it to do its magic. However, don’t use Sensodyne instead of seeing a dentist! Another method is to rinse with high fluoride mouth wash and not rinse with water.
If the trouble is more serious then the dentist will fill the hole with a filling or a crown.
When the tooth is damaged all the way to the pulp as is the case if it is knocked by a cricket ball then the dentine layer has been breached and the pulp layer is affected. This is what causes the most pain. This type of pain cannot be relieved by any home remedies: immediate dental work is necessary. The dentist will have to perform root canal surgery.
The danger with surgery on the pulp is that infection is a serious issue. If the pulp becomes infected with a virus often the only course of action is extraction.
In less extreme situations the pulp can be filled with an artificial substance. This means there are less nerve endings and less pain.
With tooth restorations where the original pulp is kept pain can occur after dental surgery while the tooth nerve endings are still mending themselves. With gold fillings the conductive nature of the metal can increase the heat on the tooth and cause pain. The same is true of the dentist’s drill that rotates very fast and causes frictional heat.
When the pulp layer is partly replaced with composite pain can occur when the composite sets and shrinks. This is why restorations are done in layers to reduce this type of pain.
The only good thing about tooth pain is that it tells a person that something is initially wrong with the tooth. The pain is a warning that something must be done to restore the tooth otherwise infection could set in and cause even worse and more painful complications.