The cementoenamel junction is the part of the tooth where two vital substances that protect the tooth meet on the tooth’s surface. Sometimes called the neck of the tooth, the cementoenamel junction can be visible to the naked eye due to the difference in color between enamel and cementum. The enamel is the protective covering that is visible on the crown of the tooth and stretches down to the gum line. Cementum is the calcified covering that protects the root portion of the tooth and is not typically visible. The area where these two meet is also sometimes known as the cervical junction.
Why is the cementoenamel junction significant?
The area around the cementoenamel junction is significant to a dentist because it is the area where the gums attach to the tooth. The gums hold on to the teeth through gingival fibers, which keep the teeth in place during activity like chewing when they are healthy. These fibers are made up of connective tissue and are able to hold the teeth in place through the impacts that occur in daily life. When these fibers are strained or damaged, they are no longer able to keep the teeth in one place. This can result in pain while chewing or talking. The inability of these fibers to properly hold the teeth in place is one of the reasons gum disease is able to take hold.
How can seeing the cementoenamel junction indicate dental problems?
When a dentist looks inside a patient’s mouth, he or she ideally wants to see nothing but tooth enamel. Inside a healthy mouth with healthy gums, the cementoenamel junction of every tooth is not typically visible. Healthy gums should cover the cementum completely, and only the enamel of the tooth should be visible. When the cementoenamel junction is visible, it may be due to the gum line receding or the early presence of gum disease. If the dentist is able to see the cementoenamel junction, he or she may need to do follow up tests to determine whether or not the gums are still healthy.
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