You may not think much about your teeth, aside from brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist twice a year. But your 32 adult teeth are amazing structures specifically tailored to biting, chewing, and protecting themselves from damage.
Dr. Sheldon Kupferman of Riverdale Dental Arts in the Bronx, New York, believes that if his patients understand how their teeth work, they’ll be more informed about what can go wrong and what they can do about it. To that end, he shares your tooth’s anatomy to give you an inside look.
Each tooth, no matter its function, contains the same structures.
The crown is the topmost part of the tooth, the part that’s visible above the gum line. It’s covered by a hard enamel — the hardest tissue in your body. The enamel protects teeth from bacteria and strengthens the structure so it can withstand bite pressure. However, because it doesn’t contain living cells, the enamel can’t repair itself when it suffers damage from decay or wear. For that, you need to see a dentist.
Just below the enamel lies a layer of mineralized tissue called dentin. It extends from the crown all the way down to the root and protects teeth from heat and cold. If the enamel becomes damaged and exposes the dentin, the microscopic tubes within the material allow heat and cold or acidic/sticky foods to stimulate the nerves inside the tooth, leading to sensitivity.
The area where the crown joins the root is called the neck, or the dental cervix. It contains three main parts:
This fleshy, pink connective tissue is attached to the neck of the tooth and to the cementum, the hard tissue that covers and protects the roots below the gum line and any teeth not yet erupted. Gum disease (gingivitis or periodontitis) can cause the tissue to recede from the teeth and lead to loose teeth or teeth that fall out.
The pulp is the innermost portion of the tooth that’s composed of tiny blood vessels and nerve tissue.
Also called the pulp chamber, this is the space inside the crown that contains the pulp.
The root is the part of the tooth below the gum line that extends into the bone and holds the tooth in place. Like an iceberg, what’s below the gum line is larger than what you see; the root makes up approximately two-thirds of the tooth.
It’s made up of a number of parts:
This is a passageway that runs from the top of the root to the tip and contains pulp. A tooth can have 1-3 canals, depending on where it’s located. A root canal procedure cleans out the canals of the pulp when it becomes exposed, infected, or otherwise damaged.
Like the enamel on the crown, this bone-like material covers the tooth’s root. It’s also connected to the periodontal ligament. Dentin lies below the cementum, just as it does below the enamel.
Made of connective tissue and collagen fiber, the periodontal ligament contains both nerves and blood vessels. Along with the cementum, it helps connect the teeth to the tooth sockets.
Blood vessels provide nutrients for the periodontal ligament, while nerves help control the amount of force you use when you chew.
Also called the alveolar bone, this is the part of the jaw that contains the tooth sockets and surrounds the teeth’s roots to hold them in place.
All together, the parts of your teeth allow you to chew and to talk properly. Losing teeth jeopardizes the health of your mouth.
If you’d like to learn more about how and why your teeth work and what to do if any of their parts are compromised, contact Riverdale Dental Arts by calling the office at 718-548-1148, or book an appointment online with us today.