A: Each tooth is a relatively complex entity. To begin with, each has two major sections: the crown – that portion that is visible above the gum, and the root, the part that goes down into the gum and secures the tooth in a socket in the jaw. The outside of the crown is covered with enamel, which is the hardest substance in the body. At the heart of the tooth is the pulp, which contains blood vessels and nerves that sense heat, cold, pressure and pain.
The pulp is inside a hard substance called the dentin, which by mass accounts for most of the tooth. Although the dentin is hard, it’s considerably more flexible than enamel and gives the tooth the elasticity needed to chew hard food without cracking the tooth – not that a tooth will never crack. The dentin gets nutrients from the pulp and can reproduce itself as long as the pulp is healthy. As the enamel protects the crown, the root is protected by cementum, a bone-like substance. The cementum connects with the periodontal ligament, which connects the root of the tooth to the socket in the jaw. Talk with your dentist about the importance of the various parts of the tooth and what you can do to keep your teeth healthy.
Information provided by Norwalk Family Dentistry, 1101 Chatham Ave., 256-9000.