Why do we have nerves in our teeth?

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by MacGyver1968, Dec 9, 2007.

  1. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

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    I'm in the process of recovering from an abscessed tooth. As I was laying there in the fetal position holding an icepack to my face to prevent the "level 7 out of 10" continuous throbbing pain....it made me wonder:

    Why do we have nerves in our teeth in the first place?..and why are they capable of producing such intense pain signals?

    If I were to guess, I'd say it had something to do about our sensing when our teeth come together when we are chewing....a larger nerve is needed to detect through the thick, hard tooth surface. When the sensitive nerve is directly exposed to stimuli (hot, cold, pain) unshielded by the tooth, It "over-reports" the stimuli to the brain.

    It's kinda like taking a microphone designed to listen for faint sounds through 5cm of granite...and placing it directly in front of the speaker stack at a "Greenday" concert. It overloads.

    I'm I on the right track?
     
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  3. John99 Banned Banned

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    Well, they are living and when the nerve is removed they're dead- turn greyish and eventually break. When your teeth come together they make a distinct sound, that sends a shock wave through your head so you know for sure they hit- try chewing on a pulled tooth and you will learn a lot just from that. Oh, teeth are unique and hard to understand, lets just say the mouth sees things differently. Stick your tongue into a small hole in your mouth and it feels enormous.
     
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  5. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

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    Because you need to feel the pain to know something is wrong. If there is a chance to save a tooth, you do. It would suck if they painlessly rotted and fell out.
     
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  7. John99 Banned Banned

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    oh, that would be great.
     
  8. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

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    You're failing to consider that we didn't evolve to have our teeth repaired. Such treatment is recent. Effective dentist care (treatment other than pulling the tooth) is extremely recent.

    A shame Spurious is still banned. He might know the anwer. Teeth are his business. Well, growing new ones from stem cells anyway...


    A personal guess. The roots aren't necessarily that big. You're thinking of the pulp and visualizing it as a huge nerve. But, the pulp isn't all nerve, it's the lifeline for bringing nutrients to the tooth.

    Now, the pain is big. I've suffered toothaches and recently had two root canals so I know whereof I speak on this one. However, the pain is actually caused by infection and if you kill the infection you generally kill the pain.

    Conjecture. Serious tooth pain is generally caused by infected pulp. The pulp is confined within a small space. The buildup of bacteria along with tissue swelling cause large pressure to build up on the nerve. Thus the large amount of pain due to the huge amounts of pressure.

    A friend had an abscessed tooth and went to the dentist who drilled into the tooth to relieve the pressure and this jet of pus came squirting out right into the dentist's face.

    That's pressure.

    Sounds like a good explanation to me.


    By the way, as to abscessed teeth and anesthetic, the dentist told me that the acid in the pus actually counteracts the novocaine, lidocaine, whatevercaine. So, if the pain is so bad that the patient can't wait a week for antibiotics to kill the infection, then they basically have to work without anesthetic.
    Ouch.

    My root canals were practically painless as they weren't infected at the time. Some small twinges when they were reaming out the canals prior to filling, but other than that... piece of cake.
     
  9. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

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    Also consider than nowadays, the average relatively healthy and well person endures relatively few intense pains in their lifetime.

    So in this scheme of things, toothaches are one of those few intense pains, this is why they stick out so much.

    If we had our legs broken every few years, ankles sprained, had a horse kick us every now and then, if we'd get shot at or lynched, or hit our finger with the hammer, if we had worms, wounds that wouldn't heal, or bear a lot of children ... -you get the idea- we'd have a different notion of what intense pain is and would also have a different attitude to it.
     
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I don't think the nerves are there to transmit pain.

    Move your jaw around ever so slightly, so your teeth move against each other in very tiny motions. Notice how you can "feel" every ridge on every tooth? You can move your teeth so slightly that you can't even see it in a mirror, but it feels like a major shift to the nerves inside the teeth. You can feel tiny scraps of food and work them out. Get a seed caught between two of them so they're pushed off-center, and a lot of times even your tongue isn't sensitive enough to find it but the nerves in your teeth are screaming, "Grab the proxybrush right now and fix that!"

    In addition to simply finding everything that's in there, you also have a kinesthetic (motion-feedback) sense of the biting and chewing motion of your teeth that is far more extensive than you'd get by extrapolating from the position of the jawbone or even by probing with your tongue, and it helps you eat without hurting your teeth or any other tissues.

    This is what those nerves are for.

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  11. Buckaroo Banzai Mentat Registered Senior Member

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    During evolution, the raw material of what eventually became our teeth had nerves as a part of their development; these nerves were either necessary for such development and/or maintenance of the structure, or at least weren't a serious burden to its carriers, not making them considerably less fit than eventual (maybe only hypothetical) variations with less innervation or even toothless.
     
  12. SkinWalker Archaeology / Anthropology Moderator

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    The nerves allow you to chew with precision. Why chew hard and forceful (wasting energy) on soft foods. Likewise, chewing lightly on hard foods wouldn't get you anywhere. Tactile sensation created by the nerves allows you to detect the location of the food and to masticate it properly.

    To test that theory, you need only visit the dentist and then try to chew something before the Novocaine wears off. It can be done, but I wouldn't recommend eating a Charleston bar or other chewy candy.
     
  13. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

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    Mac,
    How are the teeth doing?
     
  14. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

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    I look like a chipmunk this morning...all the fluid that was trapped inside the tooth drained into my cheek last night while I slept. I look like I'm carrying a golf ball in my mouth. At least it relieved the pressure pain in my tooth. Now I need a great big hypodermic to finish draining it off.

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    Yummy
     
  15. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

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    BARF!!! That's nasty!
     
  16. lucifers angel same shit, differant day!! Registered Senior Member

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    well if you didnt feal pain you wouldnt know they needed treatment, and anyway i bet you make a lovely chipmunk!!
     
  17. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

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    awww, I can see it now. So cute!
     
  18. GingerSnap Registered Senior Member

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    My tooth actually hurts right now. There are too many people bring Christmas treats to the office. I wish they would stop.
     
  19. Enmos Staff Member

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    Good to hear the antibiotics are doing their job Mac

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  20. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

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    LOL, your tooth or one of your teeth? Sorry, just had a visual of you with one tooth.

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  21. GingerSnap Registered Senior Member

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    No I still have all my teeth.

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  22. Enmos Staff Member

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    LOL

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  23. lucifers angel same shit, differant day!! Registered Senior Member

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    lol, well he knows he a love!

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