The Role of Dentin

Many of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about our teeth. This means that we don’t know the ins and outs of tooth anatomy. Beneath the enamel is a layer of dentine. Dentin may not be as well-known as enamel, but it’s a crucial component of your teeth’s structure and function. Understanding this layer can help you protect and maintain your oral health

The Role of Dentin

The Supportive Layer

Dentin is the hard tissue that makes up the bulk of your tooth’s structure. It lies beneath the enamel in the crown and cementum in the root. It is primarily composed of microscopic tubules, which are tiny channels that extend from the outer surface of the tooth to the inner pulp chamber.

What is the Function? 

Dentin serves several important functions in your teeth, contributing to their strength, sensitivity, and overall health. 

For example, dentin provides support and structure to your teeth, acting as a solid foundation for the enamel and protecting the softer pulp tissue within. It also acts as a barrier for the inner part of your teeth. It protects the sensitive inner pulp chamber from external stimuli. As a result, it prevents bacteria and acids from reaching the nerves and blood vessels within.

The dentinal tubules in dentin contain fluid and nerve endings that are sensitive to external stimuli such as temperature, pressure, and acidic foods. Dentin sensitivity serves as an early warning system. This means it can alert you to potential dental issues or damage to your teeth. In response to injury, decay, or other forms of damage, the odontoblasts in the pulp can produce additional layers of dentin. This is a process known as secondary dentin formation. It helps repair and strengthen the tooth, providing a natural defense mechanism against external threats.

What Can Happen to Dentin?

While dentin is resilient, several factors can affect its health and integrity, leading to dental problems and discomfort. When bacteria in the mouth produce acids that erode the enamel, they can eventually reach the dentin. As a result, this leads to decay and cavity formation. Dentin is softer than enamel and more susceptible to decay, so cavities can progress more quickly once they reach the dentin. 

Tooth sensitivity occurs when the dentinal tubules become exposed due to enamel erosion, gum recession, or other factors. This exposure can lead to pain or discomfort when consuming hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and beverages. Aggressive brushing, using a hard-bristled toothbrush, or abrasive toothpaste can wear down the enamel and expose the underlying dentin. Once the dentin is exposed, it can become more sensitive to external stimuli and more susceptible to decay. 

Grinding or clenching your teeth, especially during sleep, can put excessive pressure on the enamel and dentin, leading to wear and tear. Over time, bruxism can wear down the enamel and expose the dentin, increasing the risk of sensitivity and other dental problems. Accidents, injuries, or biting on hard objects can cause fractures, chips, or cracks in the enamel, exposing the dentin underneath. This can lead to sensitivity and increase the risk of decay and other complications.