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Staten Island Aesthetic & Implant Dentist

Exploring the Anatomy of a Tooth

By Alex Hecht on April 27, 2018

Digital image showing cross section of a molar toothMost of us do not spend a lot of time thinking about the inner structures and workings of our teeth. But despite their small size, the teeth are comprised of several parts. 

Understanding the anatomy of a tooth can be helpful for proper dental hygiene, as well as understanding why your doctor may recommend certain treatments in restorative dentistry. Today, our team in Staten Island, NY will explore the different parts of a tooth to demonstrate why oral health is so important.

The Structure of a Tooth

Before examining the internal components of a tooth, we will discuss the basic structure. The part of the tooth that extends beyond the gum line, the visible portion, is called the crown. The crowns of the teeth are necessary for biting and chewing function. 

The root of a tooth is anchored into the underlying jawbone. Although some patients may have visible roots due to periodontal disease or recession, they are typically hidden beneath the gums. The part of the tooth where the crown meets the root is referred to as the cementoenamel junction, which could be called the “neck”. 

The Layers of a Tooth

Now that we have a basic understanding of tooth structure, we will take a moment to explore the different layers. Working from the outside, in, these include:

  • Enamel: The outermost layer of a tooth crown, the enamel, is the most rigid substance found in the body. Made mostly of minerals, the enamel protects the tooth and aids in chewing. Because enamel is vulnerable to decay, routine oral hygiene is vital. Additionally, fluoride treatments can remineralize compromised enamel, making the teeth less susceptible to damage. 
  • Cementum: The roots of the teeth are covered in cementum instead of enamel. This calcified material is much softer than enamel, and helps the tooth attach to the periodontal ligament. Because gum recession reveals the soft cementum, it is important to address the condition should it occur. 
  • Dentin: Just under the enamel is a layer of dentin. This substance is slightly harder than the cementum found on the roots, but much softer than enamel. Dentin is comprised of tiny, hollow canals (called tubules), which can allow bacteria to enter the tooth, causing infection. 
  • Pulp: The innermost layer of a tooth is the pulp chamber. This area contains living tissues. Therefore, if infection or bacteria reach the pulp, it usually results in pain.
  • Nerves and blood vessels: Part of the pulp, nerves and blood vessels supply the tooth with much-needed nutrients for proper function.

Supporting Structures

In order for a tooth to survive, it must be supported by healthy tissues. These include the:

  • Gums: Gingiva, or the gums, cover the jawbone and help support the teeth. Healthy gums are just as important as healthy teeth.
  • Periodontal ligament: This fibrous tissue connects the tooth to the jawbone.
  • Alveolar bone: Part of the jawbone, the alveolar bone is the primary support structure for the teeth. 

Types of Teeth

It is also beneficial to understand the different types of teeth in the mouth. Most individuals develop a total of 32 teeth consisting of:

  • Incisors: These teeth are found in the front of your mouth and are for biting off food.
  • Canines: Just behind the incisors are a set of canine teeth. These are used to tear into food.
  • Premolars: Also referred to as bicuspids, there are two premolars located behind each canine. These teeth are excellent for crushing food.
  • Molars: The last set of teeth, called the molars, are located in the back of the mouth. These teeth are good for grinding food. While most individuals develop 12 molars, four wisdom teeth are often extracted.

Contact Us to Schedule a Visit

If it has been awhile since you have been to the dentist, schedule an appointment at our practice. You can contact us online anytime or call us at (718) 705-4434.

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