What Is Dentin, And How Can We Keep It Healthy?

Caring for this important part of our teeth.

Regular readers of our bi weekly blogs will probably have come across the term ‘dentin’ quite a few times and they may well understand that this is the area of the tooth that is located directly below the protective surface enamel. In today’s Mike Allen’s Dental Practice blog, we are going to look at this part of our teeth in a little more detail and also how we can help to keep it as healthy as possible.

What is dentin?

As mentioned above, it is situated beneath the enamel of our teeth. It is a hard section of a tooth but not as strong as the enamel which is always the first line of protection against many tooth problems such as decay and eventual root canal infections. It is also a yellow colour and is one of the reasons for tooth discolouration as we get older as it darkens over time, beneath the translucent enamel layer.

Around 70% of the dentin material is made up of a mineral called Hydroxyapatite (1). The rest is made up of organic matter (20%) and water (10%).  As you can see, the water content in this region means that it won’t be as hard as enamel.

Within the dentin layer are tiny tube-like structures that we call ‘tubules’. These contain cells and fluids and it is these which can allow us to feel pain when we have a toothache and can also accelerate the advance of tooth decay.

The dentin layer’s role is predominantly to support the enamel, but also enables sensations to be passed from the tooth, via the tubules, to the nerves and subsequently to our brain. It is these sensations that prevent us from biting too hard on harder foods which could potentially break our teeth even when they are healthy.

Tooth sensitivity

When we suffer from sensitive teeth, this is invariably caused by compromised enamel that has either been eroded and is too thin, or may even have tiny cracks that allow both hot and cold temperatures to pass through the enamel. When this happens, it is the tubules in the dentin layer that pass this on to the nerves in the root canals and cause us to wince in discomfort.

If your teeth are sensitive, you are also probably at a higher risk of both tooth decay and root canal infections. For this reason, you should try to keep your tooth enamel as healthy as possible.

Healthy tooth enamel

How do we keep the enamel on our teeth strong and in good health, helping not only to prevent sensitive teeth, but also to keep our teeth strong and healthy as a whole, and to protect against loss?

The answer to this lies both in our diet and lifestyle choices as well as how well we look after our teeth. We have written many blogs on this topic, but, in a nutshell, you should:

  • Brush your teeth well both morning and night, eating and drinking nothing but water after your nighttime brushing
  • Spit but don’t rinse after brushing to allow the fluoride to work more effectively to protect and strengthen the enamel
  • Use dental floss to clean the spaces between your teeth
  • Have a professional cleaning, known as a ‘scale and polish’ at least every six months
  • Avoid food and drinks that are harmful to your teeth, especially those that are both high in sugar and acids
  • Make sure that you have regular six monthly appointments to see one of our Burton dentists for a check up

Treating problems with the dentin

When bacteria reaches into the dentin layer due to poor or damaged enamel, problems are likely to start to advance much quicker.  This may cause us to suffer from toothache although this may not always be present, especially in the early stages.

While a toothache may lead to us making an emergency appointment to see one of our team; if you become aware that you have damaged a tooth, such as a small part breaking away, you should make an appointment to see us as soon as you can to prevent further structural deterioration or infection of that tooth.

Infections or damage to the dentin can usually be treated using straightforward restorative dental procedures such as a filling, including our popular tooth coloured versions. Where damage or deterioration is more advanced, a dental crown may be used instead. If the infection has reached the pulp of the tooth where the nerves are located, a root canal procedure is the most likely option to save the tooth.

The reality is that it is almost impossible to keep dentin healthy if we don’t look after the enamel that protects it. We can help you to do this with good advice and supervision at our Burton Upon Trent dental practice. If you would like to arrange an appointment for a checkup, or for diagnosis of a specific problem with your teeth and gums, please call Mike Allen’s Dental Practice on 01283 845345.

Reference 1 – https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=7368