What are Teeth Made of?


We all know that teeth are important for helping us in chewing and digesting food and giving us a beautiful smile. They appear shiny and pearly white on the outside. But they are not the same as they appear on the outside. In fact, a tooth is composed of different layers, each of which serves a specific function. This article will tell you everything you need to know about the structure of teeth.

The Layers of Teeth

Our teeth are composed of three distinct layers; the enamel, dentine and the pulp. Let’s look at the function of each layer. Let’s discuss the pulp first.

  • The Pulp – this is the inner-most layer of the teeth. It is a soft structure which contains blood vessels and nerve endings of the teeth, and functions to provide nourishment to other parts of the tooth. The pulp consists of two parts. One part is present inside the hollow space inside the tooth crown and is known as the pulp chamber. The second part of the pulp extends into the hollow space inside the tooth roots known as the root canal.
  • The Dentine – beneath the enamel lies the dentine, which is softer than enamel. This is because it contains lesser mineral content than the enamel. The dentine contains nerve endings which extend from the pulp into the dentine. The dentine has a yellowish-blue appearance. This is why when the enamel layer is lost, either due to teeth cavities, excessive tooth grinding or because of age changes, teeth start to appear yellower in color.
  • The Enamel – this is the outer most layer of the teeth. The dental enamel is rich in mineral content known as hydroxyapatite, which makes it one of the hardest materials in the human body. As a result, the enamel serves as the armor of the tooth against teeth cavities and infections. The dental enamel also gives our teeth the characteristic pearly shine to the teeth. It also prevents the underlying sensitive dentine and pulp layers of the teeth.

What Happens When Teeth get Damaged?

From the above discussion, we can see, each tooth layer serves a specific function. While enamel prevents the tooth from sensitivity and teeth cavities, the dentine and pulp contain blood vessels and nerves which nourish the teeth.

Let’s start with the enamel. When we take acidic foods or drinks, the mineral content of the enamel is gradually lost into the saliva. As a result, the enamel becomes weaker and is unable to support and prevent the underlying dentine and pulp. At this stage, the situation can be easily corrected with a suitable filling.

If this situation is ignored, the enamel is lost, and the underlying dentine is exposed. Consequently, the affected tooth becomes sensitive to hot or cold foods. Since the dentine is soft, it is quickly destroyed, leaving the pulp directly exposed to the oral environment and the pulp becomes inflamed. Now, this is the scary part! When this happens, you will feel a sharp, continuous and unbearable pain in the affected tooth which is not even relieved with pain-killers. Now, the only option your dentist has to save the tooth from extraction is to perform a root canal treatment.

Now that you know about the structure of a tooth, you can easily maintain a set of pearly white teeth throughout life. Just make sure that maintain good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly. That’s it!