Everyone has teeth or did have them before they lost them to old age or disease. Most people have a vague or perhaps basic understanding of what their pearly whites are, but what is their precise nature? What are they made from?
Are teeth bones? Are they an extension of the jawbone, and thus a bone? Maybe they’re a kind of specialized body part developed by Mother Nature for a special purpose. Well, Anatomists tell us that a tooth is, indeed, “a living body part.” However, while they are like bones in many ways, they differ in other significant ways.
Teeth are made of four basic components each of which is a distinct kind of tissue. These are pulp, cementum, enamel and dentin. Pulp makes up the innermost part of a tooth and is comprised of connective tissue, nerves and blood vessels. These are what feed a tooth the nourishment it needs to stay strong and healthy.
The pulp is surrounded by dentin. It’s the second-hardest substance in the human body. Dentin is the largest substance by percentage of what makes up a tooth. It has about the same hardness/density as a bone.
The hardest substance in the body is enamel. It is basically a shell that covers over dentin and provides a protective cap or crown. One of the primary elements that make up enamel is calcium phosphate. Note that the enamel itself does not contain any living tissue.
Cementum rounds out the four parts of our choppers. It covers the outside of a tooth’s root and holds it in place. This substance is also as hard as bone.
Before go further, let’s clear up this question of whether or not a tooth can be considered to be a bone. The simple answer is that it is not a bone. However, a tooth does share similarities in content and structure with bone.
Bones are made up of collagen. That’s a type of protein. In fact, collagen is the most abundant kind of protein in our bodies making up 25% to 35% of total body weight. The other primary component of bone is calcium phosphate. While collagen provides a soft and flexible framework for bones, calcium phosphate makes them hard and strong.
So, it’s clear that bones and teeth share some common basic elements, such as calcium phosphate which is the primary component of enamel. But consider that anatomists classify bones as “living tissue” whereas enamel is not living tissue. This points out a certain difference between a bone and a tooth.
The case can be made that teeth are not bones, per se, but it’s somewhat misleading to oversimply. For example, the root of a tooth is embedded in the jawbone and from there connects to the nerve and blood supply of the body. All parts of the body belong to a whole living organism that interact with and depend upon each other.
That’s why maintaining a healthy dental profile should be considered an integral part of our overall physical health.