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Anatomy of a Tooth: Understanding the Layers and Structures

By Burton Gooch on May 11, 2018


Digital image comparing external and internal tooth structuresThe teeth may be small, but they are certainly complex. Teeth are important for obtaining adequate nutrition as well as developing proper speech patterns. They also preserve the jawbone and promote overall wellness. 

While we can replace teeth with treatments in restorative dentistry, there is nothing quite as impressive as the real thing. That is why it is so important to take care of the teeth. 

Here, our team at Gooch Family Dental in Birmingham, AL explores the anatomy of a tooth. By understanding the design and layers of the teeth, you will be well equipped to care for them.

Types of Teeth

Before delving into the structures and layers of the teeth, we will explore the various types of teeth that exist in the mouth. Most individuals develop 32 permanent adult teeth. These include:

  • Eight incisors: These are the front four teeth on the upper and lower arches. Incisors are excellent for biting off food. 
  • Four canines: Just behind the incisors on both sides of both arches, there are canine teeth. Also referred to as “eye teeth”, canines are pointy, and are used to tear off food. 
  • Eight premolars: Behind each canine, there are two premolars, which are also referred to as bicuspids. These teeth are used primarily for chewing.
  • Eight molars: The molars are in the very back of the mouth. These teeth are used to chew and grind food before swallowing it. 

Tooth Layers

Each tooth has several layers, most of which are not visible. Here, we will explore each one:

  • Enamel: In a typical healthy patient, the only tooth layer that is visible is the enamel. This hard substance covers the portion of the crown that extends above the gum line. Enamel consists primarily of calcium phosphate, which is incredibly strong and resilient. 
  • Dentin: This is the layer just beneath the enamel. Dentin has tiny holes, also called tubules, which run from the surface of the tooth to the internal structures. Therefore, if the enamel wears thin, the teeth can become sensitive, as heat or cold can travel through these passageways. 
  • Pulp: At the center of the tooth, there is the pulp. This is where the living tissues reside, including blood vessels and nerves.
  • Cementum: The roots of the teeth are covered in a material known as cementum. This substance helps the tooth bind to the supporting structures, such as the ligaments, bone, and gum tissue. 

Tooth Position in Relation to the Gums

The portion of the tooth that extends beyond the gums is referred to as the clinical crown. As aforementioned, this is the part of the tooth protected by enamel. The root of the tooth is hidden beneath the gums. The portion where the clinical crown meets the root of the tooth is referred to as the cementoenamel junction, or the CEJ. 

If the gums recede, the tooth roots become visible, making the tooth much more vulnerable to decay and damage. Therefore, it is important to practice excellent oral hygiene to maintain the health of the teeth and gums. Recession could indicate periodontal disease, or it could just mean you are genetically prone to thin tissue. In either case, the condition should be addressed to preserve your smile. 

Contact Our Practice to Learn More

Protecting your teeth and gums is a worthwhile investment that can offer long-lasting benefits. To explore ways to care for your smile, schedule a consultation at our practice. Call us at (205) 545-8001 or contact us online anytime.

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6807 Tattersall Way
Birmingham, AL 35242

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