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The Anatomy of Teeth

TeethSomeone once said that good-looking people with strong teeth get things handed to them on platters. If this is true, undoubtedly it’s because the teeth are one of the first things we see … or should see … when meeting someone for the first time. In fact, in a recent poll, more than 50 percent of people said that a smile is the first thing they notice about someone!

But how much do you really know about teeth? For instance, did you know that, before the invention of toothpaste, people ground up chalk, charcoal, or ashes and added lemon juice or made a honey-tobacco mixture to clean their teeth? Or did you know that in 1800s England people who had false teeth often ate in their bedrooms before events where they gathered for dinners so they could be protected from the embarrassment of having their teeth fall out in front of others? Or, did you know that a common custom in the Middle Ages was to kiss a donkey to relieve toothaches? It’s true!

Fortunately, Clearwater residents don’t have to worry about such things these days, as our area has top dentists and quality dental offices that afford us some of the best dental care around. Here are some more informative (and less alarming!) facts about teeth:

Teeth, as we all know, are those small white calcified structures found in our mouths. Many vertebrates (animals that have backbones) have teeth. Of course, teeth are used to break down food, and this process enables digestion. Tooth formation actually begins before birth, and there are usually about 20 primary or ‘baby,’ teeth, and between 28 and 32 permanent teeth. Four of these teeth are ‘wisdom teeth,’ and may or may not grow in at all. Among the primary teeth, 10 of these are usually located in the upper jaw or ‘maxilla,’ while the other 10 can be found in the lower jaw or ‘mandible.’ And the parts of a tooth aren’t hard to remember, as their names make perfect sense.

The crown, aptly named, is the top part of the tooth. The shape of the crown is what determines a tooth’s function. For example, front teeth are sharp because they are perfect for cutting. Molars, on the other hand, have flatter surfaces because they work for grinding.

The gumline, naturally, is where the gums meet the teeth. Of course, brushing properly and flossing daily are both vital for keeping teeth in optimal working condition. These actions prevent tartar and plaque buildup that can lead to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), and this can lead to gum disease, a more serious inflammation that can even affect your teeth’s supporting bones.

The root of the tooth, also appropriately named, is the part that is embedded in bone. A tooth’s root makes up as much as two-thirds of it, so root care is vitally important to your teeth. The roots are what hold your teeth in place.

A word you’ve probably heard a lot about in tooth care in recent years is ‘enamel.’ This is the outermost layer of your teeth. Another interesting fact about teeth is that their enamel is actually the hardest tissue in the body! Unfortunately, enamel can easily be damaged if teeth become decayed from improper care. The dentin is the layer of the tooth just under the enamel. And the pulp is the soft tissue that is found in the center of teeth. This is where you’ll find the blood vessels and nerves of your teeth. If tooth decay due to substandard care occurs and reaches the pulp of your teeth, this can cause considerable tooth pain.

Another interesting fact about teeth is that only 40 percent of people in the U.S. still have all of their teeth by the time they reach 65 years of age. Not too comforting, if you’re someone who values the convenience of having your own teeth. Of course, if you’re a Clearwater resident who would like to count yourself as one of the fortunate 40 percent, contacting a quality dental office in your area can be the first step to a lifetime of smiles. But whether you still have your own teeth, or you’re someone who takes advantage of one of today’s affordable cosmetic options, being happy and comfortable with your teeth makes smiling a given. And then, as the old saying goes, ‘the world smiles with you’!

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