Teeth and bones look similar and share some commonalities, including being the hardest substances in your body. But teeth aren’t actually bone.
This misconception might arise from the fact that both contain calcium. More than 99 percent of your body’s calcium can be found in your bones and teeth. Approximately 1 percent is found in your blood.
Despite this, the makeup of teeth and bones are quite different. Their differences inform how they heal and how they should be cared for.
What are bones made of?
Bones are living tissue. They’re made up of the protein collagen and the mineral calcium phosphate. This enables bones to be strong but flexible.
Collagen is like a scaffolding that provides the bone’s framework. The calcium fills in the rest. The inside of the bone has a honeycomb-like structure. It’s called trabecular bone. Trabecular bone is covered by cortical bone.
Because bones are living tissue, they’re constantly being remodeled and regenerated throughout your life. The material never stays the same. Old tissue is broken down, and new tissue is created. When bone breaks, bone cells rush to the broken area to begin regeneration of tissue. Bones also contain marrow, which produces blood cells. Teeth do not have marrow.
What are teeth made of?
Teeth are not living tissue. They’re comprised of four different types of tissue:
The pulp is the innermost part of a tooth. It contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The pulp is surrounded by dentin, which is covered by the enamel.
Enamel is the hardest substance in the body. It has no nerves. Though some remineralization of enamel is possible, it can’t regenerate or repair itself if there’s significant damage. This is why it’s important to treat tooth decay and cavities sooner rather than later.
The cementum covers the root, under the gum line, and helps the tooth stay in place. Teeth also contain other minerals, but do not have any collagen. Because teeth are not living tissue, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene, since early damage to teeth cannot be naturally repaired.
The bottom line
While teeth and bones might appear to be the same material at first glance, they’re actually quite different. Bones can repair and heal themselves, while teeth cannot. Teeth are more fragile in that respect, which is why it’s so important to practice good dental hygiene and see a dentist regularly.