The Anatomy of a Tooth
We’ve already delved into enamel in all its wonder and glory on this blog, and discussed in depth why it’s so important to protect. That doesn’t mean that the other components of each tooth are any less important, however, and we felt it high time to take a look at the other building blocks of our pearly whites. That being said:
Welcome to Your Tooth!
There’s a world of goodness in each one, so let’s start by working our way in from the outside.
Enamel: This hard mineral coating is your tooth’s first line of defense. Read all about it here.
Cementum: In essence the enamel of the root, cementum is a hard, calcified substance that coats the root of each tooth and anchors your periodontal ligaments, which then connect the tooth to the surrounding gum tissue and bone.
Dentin: Below the cementum and enamel we find the dentin, a material made from living cells that secrete a hard mineral substance. When enamel starts to wear away and the teeth start to yellow, this is the dentin peeking through. It’s the last line of defense before we get to…
Pulp: We’ve arrived at the living center of your tooth, where all the blood vessels and nerve endings lie. This is the area everything else is designed to protect – when decay works it’s way through enamel and dentin and hits the pulp, that is when the real pain starts, infection occurs and root canal therapy becomes necessary.
So those are the players that make up each tooth, which can then be broken down into three sections:
- the crown: visible portion of the tooth that lays above the gum line
- the neck: where the enamel meets the cementum on your tooth, ideally right at your gum line
- the root: the shafts of each tooth that “root” it in the bone below (it’s not just a clever name!) and connect the nerves and blood vessels of the tooth to the rest of the nervous and circulatory system.
While the building blocks of each tooth are the same, they come in different shapes and sizes, are designed for different functions, and each one is unique. On your upper and lower arches, you’ll find 4 types of teeth:
Incisors: The most anterior of your teeth, these guys are responsible for shearing or cutting your food when you chew.
Canines: Separating your incisors from your premolars and molars, the canines compliment both sets of teeth in their function. Their primary responsibility, however, is tearing food during chewing.
Premolars: Before you get to the heavy hitting molars, you come to your pre molars, two in each quadrant of your mouth. While their functions vary during chewing, generally your first premolar will assist more with tearing and your second with grinding.
Molars: The most posterior of your teeth, your molars are responsible for grinding your food. In addition to first and second molars, many adults will have their third molars – or wisdom teeth – come in during their late teens/early twenties.
There you go! A quick tour of your teeth and what makes them what the special creatures they are. 🙂 Now that you know everything that goes into them, don’t be shy about protecting those chompers!