How Hard is a Tooth?

Did you know that tooth enamel was the hardest substance in the entire human body?

It’s true, and it’s one reason why dental records are often used for instances involving forensics. Teeth are packed with a dense amount of hydroxyapatite crystals, which makes them even stronger than human bone.

Softer Inner Layers of Teeth

Not every part of a tooth is hard, though. Once you get through the outer shell of enamel — which only covers the crown, or area above the gumlines — you reach the dentin and then the pulp (nerve tissues.)

Dentin is much softer. Once a cavity creeps through the strong tooth enamel and reaches dentin, the decay spreads quickly and widely. Why? Because dentin is weaker and less dense.

What About Baby Teeth?

Compared to adult teeth, baby (primary) teeth are much weaker. They lack the inner dentin structure and are made to resorb when pressed against by adult teeth, which allows them to “shrink” into a shell over time before falling out. As such, they’re usually more prone to fractures of tooth decay.

Things that Can Damage Strong Enamel

Although tooth enamel is strong, it’s still susceptible to certain things that can permanently damage your smile. Here are a few examples:

Wear (Bruxism): When teeth wear against other teeth abnormally — whether it’s due to a misaligned bite or a clenching and grinding habit like bruxism — your enamel will suffer. Gradually, the teeth will develop jagged or sharp edges, before getting flatter over time.

Adjusting how healthy teeth bite together can help to eliminate unwanted wear.

 Aggressive Toothbrushing: Always use a soft bristled toothbrush when you clean your teeth, and only place just enough pressure to make the tissues blanch. Anything more than that — or using moderate to stiff bristled brushes — can physically wear notches into your enamel.

Such areas are usually seen along the corners of your mouth, close to the gumlines. That is, just behind your eye teeth and in front of your molars. A triangle-shaped notch appears cut into the tooth and gum recession may also be present.

 Acids, Plaque, Sugar, and Carbs: As you probably guessed, enamel is also susceptible to elements that cause cavities. A cavity is a physical “hole” inside of the tooth, due to bacteria and acids eating their way through the enamel.

Acidic liquids (such as diet soda or sports drinks) or a high-carb diet can encourage a higher amount of plaque biofilm inside of your mouth. Without proper brushing and flossing, those bacteria will multiply and create new acids, continuing the decay process and causing the cavity to spread. As we learned already, once a cavity works its way through the enamel, it expands more quickly inside the inner layers of the tooth.

Keeping Your Smile Strong

Fortunately, there are ways to keep your teeth strong and resistant against wear or cavities. Options like regular fluoride treatments, nightguards, or orthodontic therapy are just a few examples.

Visit a Kois Center dentist today to get a smile protection plan that’s tailored to your unique situation.