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Understanding the Anatomy of a Tooth

Danny O'Keefe D.D.S. Jun 4, 2018

Digital image of tooth cross sectionThe teeth may be small, but they are incredibly complex. Understanding how they work can help patients properly care for them.

Here, Dr. Danny O’Keefe and our Flowood, MS dental team explore the anatomy of a tooth and explain why preventative, restorative, and general dentistry services are essential for optimal oral health.

Parts of a Tooth

The visible part of the tooth is referred to as the clinical crown. This is the portion that extends beyond the gum line. Just beneath the gum line is the root. These two sections are joined by the cementoenamel junction, or the CEJ, which is a slightly visible border where the crown and root meet.

Exploring Tooth Layers

Every tooth is comprised of layers, each with its own purpose. Here, we discuss each one:

  • Enamel: The outermost layer of a tooth, the enamel is made primarily of calcium phosphate and is the hardest substance in the human body. The enamel effectively protects the teeth from decay and other forms of dental damage. However, bacteria can erode the enamel, making the teeth more susceptible to cavities.
  • Dentin: Just underneath the enamel is a layer of dentin, which is comprised of tiny tubules or pathways. While dentin is a hard material, it is not nearly as resilient as enamel. If the enamel becomes damaged, the teeth can become extremely sensitive as heat and cold can pass through the dentin tubules.
  • Pulp: The innermost layer of a tooth is the pulp chamber, which contains nerves, blood vessels, and other living tissues. When the pulp is affected by bacteria, root canal treatment is necessary to save the tooth.
  • Cementum: While the crown of a tooth is covered by enamel, the root of a tooth is covered in a material known as cementum. This substance helps bind the tooth root to the supporting gums and jawbone.
  • Periodontal ligament: Although not technically a tooth layer, the periodontal ligament is crucial to your oral health. This tissue helps hold the teeth securely against the jaw.

Types of Teeth

There are four types of teeth that comprise human dentition. These include:

  • Eight incisors: The front four teeth in the upper and lower jaws are designed to bite into food. On each arch, there are two central incisors and two lateral incisors.
  • Four canines: Also referred to as “eye teeth”, the canines are pointy, designed for tearing into food.
  • Eight premolars: There are two premolars behind each canine. These teeth, also referred to as bicuspids, have some ability to tear and crush food.
  • 12 molars: When it comes to chewing and grinding food, molars are essential. These teeth are located in the very back of the mouth, behind the premolars. While most patients will eventually develop 12 molars, the majority of individuals will have their wisdom teeth removed, leaving a total of 28 teeth.

How to Care for Your Teeth

Now that we have discussed the anatomy of a tooth, we will briefly explain how to properly care for your teeth and gums for long-term oral health.

First, it is important to attend all regular dental examinations and cleanings. For most patients, these visits will be approximately six months apart. However, those who are prone to decay or gum disease may necessitate more frequent appointments.

In addition to routine dental visits, at-home care is just as important. Your teeth should be brushed at least twice a day, and flossing should be completed once a day. It is also a good idea to use an ADA-approved antibacterial mouthwash to keep bacteria levels low.

Contact Us to Learn More

If you would like to learn more about how to care for your teeth, we can help. To schedule a consultation at our practice, contact us online or call us at (601) 936-2526.

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996 Top St
Flowood, MS 39232

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