Why Preserving Tooth Structure is Important

Teeth are unique.  The hard tissues that make up a tooth fall into the small category of the few tissues in the body that cannot heal themselves. 

The Anatomy of a Tooth

Teeth are hollow.  The internal chamber of a tooth is filled with nerves and blood vessels.  This soft tissue is called the pulp.  This is the tissue removed during a root canal procedure.

A hard substance called dentin makes up the core of the tooth.  Dentin completely surrounds the pulp chamber.  It is harder than bone, but softer than enamel.  It is also yellower in color than enamel.  

A thin layer of hard tissue called cementum coats the outer surface of the roots of all teeth.  Because it is very thin, cementum is often missing from exposed roots.

Enamel, the hardest substance in the body, covers the crown of teeth.  The crown refers to the portion of a tooth that protrudes out of the gums.

The Healing Capabilities of a Tooth

Enamel and cementum cannot regenerate themselves.  Once lost or destroyed, they are gone forever.  Dentin has some regenerative abilities.  There are many areas of scientific research devoted to learning how to stimulate the reproduction of dentin, and to date, there have been some minor successes in this realm.  The pulp tissue, both nerves and blood vessels, also has a limited ability to heal.  There is a small window within which an irritated or inflamed pulp can return to a healthy state.

Because a tooth has such a limited ability to heal and restore itself, conserving natural tooth structure is of utmost importance.

What Causes Irreversible Damage to Tooth Structure

There are several different causes of irreversible tooth damage.  Some are avoidable, and others are not.

  • Cavities – When decay penetrates enamel and dissolves both enamel and dentin, the body is not able to remake the missing tooth structure that is now missing.  The word cavity means a hole.  The human body cannot fill in these holes; therefore, the only way to fix cavities is with fillings performed by your dentist.  Most cavities are avoidable.
  • Tooth cracks – When a tooth forms, the enamel is one solid layer and must stay in one piece to perform its various functions. Cracks in teeth are very common.  Cracks caused by nighttime clenching or grinding are preventable; those caused by injuries are usually not.
  • Injuries – Many people suffer chipped or broken teeth as a result of injuries to the face and mouth.  Some of these injuries may be avoidable by wearing athletic mouthguards during high risk activities or contact sports.
  • Elective dental work – The word “elective” means that the work is not necessary for the health of a tooth.  This is avoidable loss of tooth structure.  This includes procedures like traditional porcelain veneers or crowns for cosmetic reasons.

How to Avoid Loss of Tooth Structure

Prevent cavities! 

There are multiple ways to avoid cavities.  Follow these guidelines to lower your risk for cavities.

  1. Brush up on your brushing technique.  Make sure you are brushing your teeth in the right way for the right length of time at the right times of day.  Ideally, you need to brush your teeth twice a day: once after breakfast as you start your day, and once before bed.  Make sure to brush along the gum lines of each tooth in a circular motion with a soft bristled toothbrush.  It usually takes about 2 minutes to properly brush each tooth in your mouth.  If you have trouble brushing in this way, consider an electric toothbrush, which will do the gentle circular motion for you.
  2. Never miss a day of flossing!  Food debris and bacteria love to hang out between the teeth where your toothbrush bristles do not reach.  A good oral hygiene routine includes flossing every single night before bed.
  3. Use a fluoride mouthrinse every day.  Fluoride is scientifically proven to strengthen enamel and make it more resistant to cavities.  
  4. Stay on schedule with dental cleanings.  With consistent professional teeth cleanings, your dentist and dental hygienist are able to spot any warning signs of a high risk for cavities.  They will give you specific, customized recommendations to help lower that risk.
  5. Watch your sugar intake.  People who have a high-sugar diet automatically have a higher risk for cavities.  There are ways to satisfy your sweet tooth without increasing your cavity risk.

Prevent tooth cracks! 

Pay close attention when your dentist mentions evidence of nighttime clenching or grinding.  People who clench or grind their teeth overnight are at high risk for cracking their teeth.  Wear a custom, professional nightguard to protect your teeth from the heavy forces of clenching or grinding.

Prevent injuries! 

Many injuries are unavoidable.  If you or a loved one plays contact sports, wear an athletic mouthguard during practice and games to prevent an injury to the teeth.  The better your mouthguard fits, the better it will protect your teeth.  A custom-made mouthguard from your dentist is the most protective!

Choose the most conservative dental work for your cosmetic needs! 

Rather than covering your teeth with crowns, consider straightening them with Invisalign.  Instead of traditional porcelain veneers, which remove a significant amount of tooth structure, opt for no-prep veneers, which can be as thin as a contract lens.

More Questions about How to Preserve Tooth Structure?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our dentists. They can advise you on how to address your specific risks and needs as conservatively as possible.