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Your Teeth, Inside Out

Many first impressions are formed by the whiteness and straightness of
your teeth. This external view of your teeth is important, but what's
inside your teeth is even more important to your overall health and the
attractiveness of your smile.

From the outside, each tooth
looks like a solid white object, but teeth actually are complex living
tissues made up of several layers:

(1) Enamel
(2) Dentin
(3) Pulp

Enamel
is the white, outermost layer of the tooth that covers the crown (the
part of your tooth that you see, above the gumline). Enamel is the
hardest substance in your body. It provides strength for biting and
chewing, and it protects the inner layers from plaque and bacteria that
lead to decay.

Dentin is the second, yellowish layer inside your
tooth. This hard tissue contains millions of tubules. Dentin is softer
than enamel and provides support for it, acting like a shock absorber
to take the impact of biting and chewing. When a cavity develops, it
breaks through the enamel and attacks the dentin.

Pulp is the
innermost layer, which includes the nerves and blood supply for a
tooth. This soft tissue reaches from the pulp chamber at the top of the
tooth, down through the root canals in the tooth roots. If decay
reaches the pulp or root canals, a filling may not be sufficient to
protect the strength and health of your tooth.

The roots of your
teeth (the parts of your teeth below the gumline) also contain blood
vessels and nerves that connect your teeth to the nerves and blood
vessels of your jawbone. The roots are covered with cementum. This
extremely thin layer of tissue "cements" your teeth to the bone.

Disease
and decay that reach the roots are extremely serious and painful.
That's why it's important for us to examine both the outsides and the
insides of your teeth.

X-rays: A safe view inside your teeth

As
part of your regular dental checkup, we may take x-rays. Different
types of x-ray images help us to identify areas of decay, worn-out
fillings, cracks, tartar, periodontal disease, bone infections,
impacted wisdom teeth, long or crooked roots, abscesses or cysts,
problems with sinuses, or anything else that may appear unusual or
abnormal.

Depending on your age and your dental health situation, we may use different kinds of x-rays, including:

Bitewing
x-rays: These are the most common type of x-rays. They capture images
of your upper and lower teeth above the gumline (the crowns)
simultaneously.
Full series of x-rays: Using 18 different
locations, these give us a complete picture of your mouth. We often
take a full series during your first visit with us.

Periapical
x-rays: These give an excellent view of your entire tooth, including
the roots, any bone loss, and cysts or abscesses. We may use these
x-rays as a followup measure for monitoring your teeth and jaw.
Panographic
x-rays: These give us a complete picture of your entire mouth in one
image, including wisdom teeth, the sinuses, and the jawbone.

To
ensure an accurate view, we may ask you to tie back synthetic hair
braids or remove jewelry, especially nose rings, mouth jewelry, or
earrings with large hoops. This is particularly important with
panographic x-rays.

Dental x-rays are safe, because our
sensitive x-ray equipment quickly and accurately targets only a
specific area of your mouth. Our highly trained staff give you a lead
apron and collar to provide additional protection. And our modern
technology effectively minimizes the amount of radiation and how long
you are exposed to it.

Radiation from a dental x-ray is very
low, not much more than the normal background radiation of everyday
life . And the
benefits of using dental x-rays far outweigh the risks.


 

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