From a young age, everyone, from TV commercials to our parents, continually reminds us how crucial dental hygiene can be. And that’s no exaggeration, since achieving superior oral hygiene takes constant care. Dental health is reflected in our day-to-day decisions, and it’s our responsibility to learn as much as possible about our teeth to provide them with the care they most certainly deserve.
Here at Loudoun Orthodontics, our goal is to make sure that we thoroughly educate our patients about dental health and the dangers of neglecting it. That being said, we’re inviting you today to join us and learn more about the journey of your teeth, all the way from the first pearly whites to permanent teeth, and other exciting facts concerning dental health!
Understanding The Journey Of Your Teeth
First off, let’s begin by understanding the life cycle of your teeth:
When Your Teeth Come In As A Baby
If a new baby has recently brought blessings upon your household, you must naturally be curious about baby teething. Babies are born without teeth, but they will start to grow before you even know it.
As a rule of thumb, your baby’s first teeth will make their big entrance at around six months old (usually, the lower central incisors), though signs of teething can proceed this moment by up to three months. In some cases, teeth can be a bit lazy and take up to a year to develop. By the age of three, your baby will develop its first set of 20 pearly whites called baby teeth.
When Your Teeth Start Falling Out
There’s no wonder why the Tooth Fairy is the children’s favorite – from six until the age of twelve, they lose all of their baby teeth. Even though tooth loss might seem confusing for children, it is our responsibility to teach them that losing one’s baby teeth is a part of growing up.
Still, why is losing our baby teeth part of our growth process? The baby teeth only act as placeholders. Their purpose is to prepare our jaws for our permanent teeth. When the permanent teeth are ready to take their place, the baby tooth root starts to dissolve until the tooth remains kept in place only by gum tissue. In general, the lower central incisors are the first culprits to make way for permanent teeth, followed by the upper central incisors.
So How Many Teeth Do Adults Have?
With the baby teeth out of the picture, the average adult has 32 permanent teeth. Twenty-eight permanent teeth will gradually appear, with the addition of four “latecomers” (between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five) called wisdom teeth. In some cases, when it comes to wisdom teeth, adults decide to remove them, while, in other instances, they don’t grow altogether!
Each of the twenty-eight teeth has a specific role in both the chewing and eating process. But how do we differentiate between each tooth? To make matters more comfortable, we can separate permanent teeth into four categories:
- Eight incisors: these are the front top and bottom teeth, whose sharpness is essential for holding and cutting food.
- Four canines: the canines’ pointy shape makes them perfect for grabbing and tearing food.
- Eight premolars: these teeth are akin to canines and molars both through their position and through shape. Shape-wise, they resemble molars, though with the same cusps shown by canines. They are used for both tearing and cutting.
- Eight molars: These are our “chewing teeth,” with broad surfaces, which prepare the food for ingestion. Here, we can also include the four wisdom teeth, the third set of molars.
Are Teeth Bones? What Are They Actually Made Of?
One of the most interesting facts surrounding the dental world stem from the common misconception that teeth and bone tissues are the same.
They indeed share common attributes; both contain almost all of our bodies’ calcium, and both represent the hardest substances in our bodies. However, they must not be confused, and the essential difference lies at the tissue level: bones are living tissue, while teeth are not.
The inner structure of the tooth consists of the following types of tissue:
- Pulp: the core of the tooth, containing blood vessels and nerves.
- Dentin: the tissue that surrounds the pulp.
- Enamel: the hardest substance in our bodies, devoid of nerves, which covers the dentin.
- Cementum: the calcified substance that covers the root of the tooth and keeps it in place.
Why Do Teeth Break?
Another question that concerns our patients has to do with the strength of our teeth. In some instances, it’s true; the outer tissue layers can crack, leaving the tooth exposed. For example, certain eating habits (e.g., chewing and biting hard foods, such as hard candy or nuts, or abrupt temperature changes in the mouth) can cause teeth to crack; unexpected injuries (e.g., from accidents or fistfights) have the same effect. Finally, genetics and the natural aging process weaken the outer tissue layers as well.
Can Teeth Repair Themselves?
When discussing the distinction between bones and teeth, we mentioned tissue type as a primary factor: teeth are not living tissue. The inside of the tooth, especially the dentin layer, contains some stem cells ready to replicate lost tissue whenever cavities, infections, or injuries take over. However, stem cells can only furnish a limited amount of tissue, which is why teeth alone cannot heal themselves altogether.
The same applies to the enamel layer. Since it consists of 90% minerals, the small number of proteins and cells is not enough to finish the healing process. Because of these limited regenerative traits, constant dental care plays an essential role in our general health.
Why Do Teeth Turn Yellow?
Akin to other human tissue, such as the skin, our teeth are subject to numerous factors that can lead to discoloration. These factors cause the appearance of two stain types: extrinsic stains and intrinsic stains.
Extrinsic stains appear on the enamel, the outer layer of the tooth, which is continuously subjected to factors such as smoking, drinking coffee, or eating foods high in chromogens, such as blueberries, cherries, or grapes can leave a stain on the enamel – the list goes on and on. As a rule of thumb, anything that leaves stains on your clothes can stain your teeth as well. However, with constant dental care, we can easily remove them.
Intrinsic stains appear on the dentin, the inner tissue of the tooth, and are harder to remove. Several factors, such as medications, can cause such inner stains.
Until now, we’ve seen only external factors that cause yellow spots on our teeth. However, internal factors as well can contribute to discolored teeth:
- Heredity: Some individuals inherit a sparkling smile from their parents, while others tend towards more yellow teeth.
- Age: the outer enamel layer becomes thinner over time, causing the teeth to look more yellow.
Learning more about how our teeth grow and how to take better care of them is an essential undertaking, and here at Loudoun Orthodontics, our mission is to bring superior dental care to our patients. Ready to learn more about dental care? Make sure that you schedule a complimentary consultation with us, or check out our blog!