What are teeth, really? It sounds like a question a child might ask, but it’s harder to answer than you might think. On the surface, teeth seem mostly like bones. They’re white in color, hard in texture, and connected to the skull. However, they don’t exactly behave like bones, and there are some important differences between the two. Given the complexity of this topic, dental experts have been debating this issue for years. Houston dentist, Dr. Craig Armstrong, is dedicated to answering any and all questions our patients may have about their pearly whites. We understand that the first step to taking better care of your teeth is knowing more about them. In the following blog, we explain the common characteristics between teeth and bones, and what differentiates the two, as well as our tips for keeping your teeth in top shape.
Many people think teeth must be bones because they are so similar. A Delaware Online article explains: “Teeth consist mostly of hard, inorganic minerals like calcium,” just like bones, the solid, calcium-rich organs that make up our skeletons. In addition, teeth “contain nerves, blood vessels, and specialized cells,” also similar to bones. Both teeth and bones serve important functions in the body. They both have outer protection covering the materials within, and both are integral to the body’s structure. As Live Science points out, teeth and bones are also similar in that they are both part of the skeletal system.
Why Teeth Aren’t Bones
So, if teeth and bones are so alike, why aren’t teeth bones? There are a few key ways they differ:
· Their chemical composition is actually notably dissimilar. Live Science describes: “the exterior of bones consists of periosteum, a dense, smooth, slippery membrane that lines the outer surface of most bones…periosteum contains osteoblasts, or cells that can manufacture new bone growth and repair.”
· Teeth’s lack of osteoblasts also means they are more vulnerable than bones in some ways. Live Science goes on: “Tooth enamel, unfortunately, doesn’t have the same regenerative powers. Unlike bones, teeth cannot heal themselves or grow back together if they are broken.” A cracked bone can mend itself on its own, but a tooth doesn’t have the same capability.
· Elaborating on this, Science Nordic reports: “the base at the roots of our teeth [the pulp]…have cells that can provide a certain amount of repair, but not up in the crowns [the upper enamel]. The article warns: “this leaves a large section of teeth’s surface area highly sensitive to the environment – what we breathe and what we eat and drink.”
· AreTeethBones.com (yes, there is an entire website surrounding this quandary), explains “our bones…are continually growing to support our bodies,” but “the adult set of teeth, which are usually acquired by the time a child becomes a teenager, stays the same size.” Once we lose our baby teeth, our teeth have a stable shape and size. Your adult teeth are all you have.
· Delaware Online also points out that teeth “don’t produce bone marrow, which makes red and white blood cells, like bones. Instead, the pulp [the blood vessels and nerves within the center of the tooth] is the living portion of the tooth.”
· Given their placement in the mouth, teeth are constantly in contact with breath, bacteria, heat, cold, sugars, acids, and all sorts of potentially harmful substances, while bones are usually protected amongst layers of skin, joints, and other tissues. This only adds to teeth’s weakness in comparison to bones.
Ultimately, the moral of the story of teeth and bones is that teeth are much more predisposed to health issues than bones are. Fortunately, Dr. Armstrong and our team are here to assist you in maintaining your smile.
Caring for Your Chompers
As we discussed above, the disparities between teeth and bones don’t favor teeth. While it might look similar to bone, the calcium-rich tissue in our mouths is actually much more susceptible to infection, injury, and other conditions than the bones in our arms, legs, and the rest of our bodies. For this reason, Houston dentist Dr. Armstrong urges his patients to maintain excellent dental hygiene.
First, and perhaps most importantly, you must brush your teeth. The American Dental Association advises you to “brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush.” Dr. Armstrong and our team can help you master the proper technique for this, including positioning “your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, gently [moving] the brush back and forth,” and “[cleaning] the outer surfaces, inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.” This scrubbing process allows you to remove particulate matter, sugar, acid, and other potentially harmful materials from your enamel, preventing them from forming the bacteria-filled plaque that decays your teeth.
Dr. Armstrong also recommends that you floss your teeth at least once per day. We recognize that this often doesn’t occur – the U.S. News and World Report recently noted: “those who floss daily amount to 30 percent of the population” and “just over 37 percent report less than daily flossing; slightly over 32 percent say they never floss.” However, especially given that teeth cannot protect themselves like bones do, we urge you to make this part of your daily routine. Factually, flossing is the only way to clean between your teeth and under the gums, which are often especially vulnerable to decay and infection.
Another important way to take care of your teeth is coming in to see Dr. Armstrong and our team for an examination and professional cleaning at least twice per year. During this appointment, we will assess your teeth to catch any oral health issues before they become more serious. Dr. Armstrong will also teach you the proper brushing and flossing techniques so you can practice excellent oral hygiene at home.
Repairing Your Smile
If you do end up damaging your smile, Dr. Armstrong and our team will be here to help you mend your teeth with restorative dentistry. As we’ve established, teeth cannot regenerate the way bones do, so if yours become chipped, cracked, eroded, or otherwise harmed, they will need to be professionally restored. At our Houston dental office, Dr. Armstrong can provide a dental filling for a cavity, place a crown if the tooth structure has been compromised by injury, provide fixed bridges for lost teeth, and even offer dentures for multiple missing teeth. In all cases, Dr. Armstrong works tirelessly to create a comfortable fit and attractive appearance for these prostheses, truly revitalizing your smile.
Find Out More About Your Teeth
Do you have more questions about your teeth? Are you due for a cleaning? We’d love to see your smile at our practice. Contact your Houston dentist, Dr. Armstrong, today to schedule an appointment.