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.
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.