Why Do We Have Nerves in Our Teeth?

February 15, 2024

The hard, white outer layer of your tooth (enamel) doesn’t have nerves, but inside each tooth is a complex organ that helps you chew and speak. The centre of each tooth contains blood vessels, lymph vessels and connective tissue – plus nerves, which send sensory information to your brain about pressure, touch, hot and cold and pain.

The nerves in your teeth are there to help you to know when you are biting too hard, or chewing something that could damage the tooth and invite infection. They also act as a kind of early warning system, alerting you to a problem so that you can get it treated sooner, rather than later.

Each tooth has several nerves that come from the trigeminal ganglion, which is located in the skull near the back of your head. Each nerve gives off branches that innervate different parts of your mouth and face. The maxillary nerve (V2) innervates the upper teeth, and gives off small dental branches that enter premolars through their root openings (apical foramina) to supply the palatal and buccal mucosa, plus the supporting alveolar bone and periodontal ligament in each upper tooth. It is a mixed nerve that contains both afferent and motor fibers.

The mandibular nerve (V3) is both afferent and efferent. The afferent fibres form part of the superior dental plexus and send sensory signals to your brain about the lower jaw and face (including the anterior two thirds of the tongue). The efferent fibres supply the eight muscles of mastication, plus the mylohyoid muscle that retracts your jaw, and the anterior belly of the digastric muscles.


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