Do us a favor. Take a quick look at one of your teeth. Any tooth. What do you see? You may see the enamel of your tooth appears hard and solid. Your tooth may evidence of decay or coloring that may give clues your dental and overall health. The shape of your tooth might tell you its specific function, such as biting, tearing, or chewing. But what you cannot see when you look at your tooth is the very delicate balance of the tooth’s design. Teeth are not rocks – they really are a divinely inspired work of art and architecture. Dr. Erpenbach likens the structure of the tooth to the Pantheon in Rome – unchanged and still structurally sound after many ages. Dr. Erpenbach believes that to be able to provide patients with the best care and maintain, repair, and protect the structure of the tooth, and dentists should understand the delicate design behind its make up.
The design of the tooth is similar to the design of a compression dome. A dome exerts force both downward and outward on the rest of the structure, and this force is what holds the structure, or tooth, together. If tooth decay occurs on the top of the tooth, the force that holds the structure together is reduced, and the tooth will collapse in upon itself as a result. Also, if the decay occurs on the side of the tooth, the force exerted from the top is also interrupted and can cause the tooth to break apart.
The ridges, grooves, and valleys of the tooth also serve a purpose. They are a strategically connected system that protects the teeth from damage from chewing. If this strategic system is disrupted – either by erosion, injury, or when the tooth is drilled to remove decay as in a traditional type of filling restoration, the tooth can begin to crack. Cracks in the tooth allow bacteria to develop and cause further decay leading the tooth down a death spiral to tooth loss. By taking understanding the natural design of the tooth, Dr. Erpenbach can treat tooth decay without negatively impacting the tooth’s structure.
The outside of the tooth is not the only part of the tooth’s structure to consider. Dr. Erpenbach explains that the tooth is like an M&M candy – hard shell on the outside but soft on the inside. The soft inside of the tooth has specialized structures as well. Dentin, the dense tissue that forms most of the tooth beneath the enamel is designed to flex in order to prevent cracking and breaking. Studying the components inside the tooth allows for the development of dental treatments that bring the tooth back to its natural state. By using flexible fibers to make repairs, instead of traditional materials, allows for the naturally intended flexing function of the tooth’s dentin to be restored. Returning teeth to their natural form and function is what Dr. Erpenbach is all about!
If you have questions about the tooth’s structure or the special approaches Dr. Erpenbach takes to ensure the natural state of the tooth is protected, give him a call today at 865.584.8630.