The Anatomy of a Tooth

If you're anxious about coming to the dentist, we would like to bring you comfort.

Aside from changing the look of your smile, crooked teeth can cause health problems as well. Correcting them is important for your smile and the health of your entire body.

You rely on your teeth for more than you might realize. In addition to helping you to chew, the teeth play an essential role in helping you to speak, enunciate properly, and to keep your body healthy and strong. They even help you to kiss!

To makes sure your teeth will never fail you, you should learn to take the best care of them you can--which means learning their structures and how they work. Here is a description of the anatomy teeth and how damage can affect them.

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Above the Gums


The crown is the visible portion of the tooth. Damage to the crown can introduce oral bacteria into the inside portion of the tooth where the blood vessels and nerves are. This is why you should get dental chips and fractures repaired immediately. Depending on the location of the tooth, crowns are shaped differently. For example, front teeth tend to be thinner and sharper to cut foods. They are called incisors. Molars have wide, heavy chewing surfaces made to crush and grind foods into small pieces for swallowing and to prepare foods for digestion.


Healthy teeth are covered in bright white, shiny enamel, composed of a mineral called hydroxyapatite. At a 5 on the Moh's hardness scale, dental enamel is harder than other durable elements like iron, gold, and platinum. In fact it is the hardest substance in your body! But, if the bacteria of plaque and tartar aren’t removed from the surface of the teeth, they will produce acids that can erode the enamel creating cavities and infections.

Inside the Tooth


Dr White inspecting something closely

Dentin is a hard mineral substance that helps form the second layer of the internal portion of the tooth. Dentin is seven times softer than enamel and contains microscopic tubules which are the extensions of the nerve of the tooth. When cavities form, the porous nature of dentin allows bacteria to seep into these tubules and this is what we call a cavity. Aggressive brushing can expose the dentin of the tooth by wearing away the enamel, and when this happens the nerve endings in the dentin get sensitive to cold.


The innermost portion of your tooth is the dental pulp, which houses a network of blood vessels, nerves and lymph vessels..  When the pulp is injured by trauma or contaminated by bacteria from decay it usually deteriorates and the tissues die. This is what often causes the classic toothache. If left untreated the infection worsens and may cause swelling and life threatening damage to the many structures in your face.


Teeth have two sets of nerves. One set is in the pulp and the other set is outside the tooth which helps us to detect biting pressure and prevents us from biting things that are too hard. In fact, there are more nerve endings in teeth and in the chewing system than in any other part of the body! This is what makes the mouth so sensitive in so many ways.

Under the Gums


Dental roots are the portion of the tooth that extends into the jaw, and they are much longer than most people realize. About 2/3 of your tooth is root. Nerves and blood vessels run from the tip of each root to the tooth's central pulp chamber, keeping the soft inner tissues alive.


Cementum is the mineral covering on the outside of the dental root. Although hard, it is not as hard as dentin. Naturally produced by the tooth itself, cementum is a calcified, tissue that interfaces with the periodontal ligament which holds the tooth connected to the jawbone. The area where cementum meets the dental enamel of the crown is referred to as the cemento-enamel junction.

Periodontal Ligament

Teeth are connected to the jawbone by two components: your periodontal ligament and the cementum. The periodontal ligament is made up of collagen fibers that consist of around 70% water. The strength of these fibers is what determines your tooth’s ability to withstand impact and movement. Unfortunately, poor oral hygiene can create an inflammatory response in the gum tissue that can damage the periodontal ligament, resulting in loose or missing teeth. This occurs in gum disease, periodontitis.

Alveolar Bone

The alveolar bone is an especially dense, hard type of bone that attaches to the periodontal ligament which attaches to the root of the tooth... The alveolar bone contains a row of sockets to cradlethe teeth. Bone loss due to periodontal disease can make the alveolar bone less supporting, which can result in tooth loss.

For more information about dental anatomy, schedule an appointment with Advanced Dental Concepts today. Dr. Sander I. White, one of the best dentists in Broomall PA, will evaluate the health of your teeth and help you keep your smile healthy and comfortable.

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