Understanding Oral Histology & Embryology

Understanding Oral Histology & Embryology

Oral histology and embryology touches on the development and growth of teeth and oral cavities, as well as the structure and development of salivary glands and more. Though ita��s a complex subject that encompasses many facets, ita��s material youa��ll have to become familiar with if youa��re interested in pursuing dental hygienist training or becoming an intra-oral dental assistant, as it will help you understand normal facial development and will prepare you to care for patients with abnormalities or dental pathologies.

So what do we really mean when we use terms like a�?histologya�? and a�?embryologya�?? Leta��s try to break it down into material thata��s a little simpler to understand.

The basics

Histology is the science and study of tissues. Histo means a�?tissue,a�? while Logy means a�?the science of.a�? By studying oral histology and embryology, youa��ll gain a strong foundation in oral biology. The material youa��ll study will focus on the development and structure of cells and tissues, the stages of tooth development and maturation, the different components of a tissue, like cells, intercellular substance and tissue fluids, and the different components of a human tooth, like enamel, dentin, dental pulp and cementum. To understand how the mouth functions, ita��s critical that we know how cells become tissues. Why is it so important? Well, by better understanding how teeth evolve over time, we can develop superior techniques to prevent caries and other dental problems in advance. For example, did you know that the correct method of brushing teeth that professionals with dental assistant training recommend today is based on our knowledge of oral histology?


The hardest tissue in the human body, enamel is made mostly from calcium phosphate in the form of hydroxyapatite crystals. Because of this, enamel cana��t regenerate, which means it will slowly experience wear and tear over time. An absence of enamel can lead to a number of problems for teeth, such as greater vulnerability to caries.


The bulk of the root of a tooth, dentin is made of dentinal tubules. In the inner dentin, there are nerves present, which is why when the enamel of a tooth is gone, a person can experience pain or sensitivity. Dentin also works hand in hand with pulp, as dentin grounds pulp while pulp nourishes dentin.


Pulp is the only soft tissue of the tooth. Ita��s also a loose connective tissue kept in place by dentin. Pulp is very sensitive, so it will respond to any sensation of pain, and it also connects to the lateral canals of the root. Lastly, the average volume of the pulp is about 0.03 cm3, so ita��s quite small.


Cementum is comparable to bone. Its function is to hold the tooth in place to keep it in a functional position. Like dentin, cementum will form throughout life, so ita��s in no danger of running out. Therea��s much less cementum near the enamel, which is why the tooth can be in trouble when the enamel runs out.

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