Odontoblast: Function, Abnormalities and Care

The odontoblast is a living specialized cell that forms the dentin, a hard component of the tooth that surrounds the dental pulp. Odontoblasts are one of the building blocks that form a healthy tooth, producing the layer below the enamel and cementum. According to a paper in Congenital Anomalies, they appear during craniofacial development before birth. However, odontoblasts continue to repair and protect a tooth through the entirety of the tooth's life.

What Odonotoblasts Do

These columnar cells emerge from the outer layer of the dental pulp with the biologic function to form the dentin layer. Dentin is living tissue responsible for constant growth and repair to protect the tooth. It also carries stimuli along the nerves of the dentinal tubules to transmit pain to the pulp. After they're formed, the odontoblasts are retained within the tooth along the wall of the pulp. They secrete dentin material throughout the life of a tooth.

Odonotoblasts, Ameloblasts and Your Tooth Anatomy

The cells that form your teeth have different functions, though they work together in some respects. Odontoblasts form dentin, a hard, porous layer that comprises the largest portion of the tooth. Specialized cells called ameloblasts form enamel, the hard, outermost layer of the tooth. Ameloblasts are only present during tooth development and become fully functional after the odontoblasts have formed the first layer of dentin. Ameloblasts are part of the enamel epithelium, and they become inactive shortly after tooth eruption.

Odontoblast Abnormalities

Defective tooth development happens and although rare, known conditions can stem from abnormal dentin development by the odontoblasts. According to the National Institutes of Health, dentinogenesis imperfecta is a genetic mutation that alters the protein in the dentin sialophosphoprotein (DSPP) gene that forms the dentin. In this condition, the teeth appear discolored blue-gray or yellow-brown. The condition causes the teeth to weaken and become prone to premature wear.

Another dentinal defect is called dentin dysplasia. According to the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, dentin dysplasia alters the dentin and pulp of the baby and permanent teeth, resulting in shortened roots and a smaller or nonexistent pulp chamber. The erupted teeth appear normal, but the pulp lacks essential nerve and blood supply for the tooth. Left untreated, the condition leads to tooth loss in the early adult years.

How to Help Your Odontoblasts

Knowing the parts and components of a tooth will help you understand how to prevent dental pain and disease. While enamel no longer forms or repairs itself after your teeth have grown in, dentin does. Keeping your teeth healthy and pain-free requires good oral hygiene habits and products that reinforce the enamel. Brush twice daily with a toothpaste which contains a maximum-strength, FDA-allowed anti-sensitivity active ingredient and also helps repair and strengthen weakened enamel.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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What Are The Different Parts Of A Tooth?

Each tooth has several distinct parts; here is an overview of each part:

  • Enamel – this is the outer and hardest part of the tooth that has the most mineralized tissue in the body. It can be damaged by decay if teeth are not cared for properly.

  • Dentin – this is the layer of the tooth under the enamel. If decay makes it through the enamel, it next attacks the dentin — where millions of tiny tubes lead directly to the dental pulp.

  • Pulp – this is the soft tissue found in the center of all teeth, where the nerve tissue and blood vessels are located. If tooth decay reaches the pulp, you usually feel pain and may require a root canal procedure.