Understanding the Anatomy of Your Teeth

June 3, 2021

To better understand how to properly care for your teeth, it can be a great idea to get a closer look at exactly what makes a tooth up. You can see the surface, but what is inside and under your teeth? Here are a few things to know about the anatomy of your teeth.

General Overview

The average adult has 32 teeth, which have emerged by about age 13 and excludes the wisdom teeth. These teeth include eight incisors. These teeth are the four in the middle of both the top and bottom jaws. You will also find four canine teeth in total. These are the pointed teeth found to either side of the incisors on both the top and bottom jaw, framing them in.

There will also be eight premolar teeth that are found between the molars and canines. Finally, there are the eight-round and flat teeth found in the rear of the mouth. These are used for grinding food up. There are also some of the more difficult to reach and therefore keep clean. Wisdom teeth begin to erupt sometime at age 18 but are often removed to avoid teeth displacement.

Crown of Your Tooth

The term crown is used to describe everything you see above your gum line. The enamel, the dentin, and the pulp are not all visible but make up the layers of the crown. Around your tooth, you will see the gums, and the bone extending below this forms the root of your tooth. For many people, the terms crown and tooth are interchangeable, but the crown is only one part of the anatomy of the tooth. The shape of your crown determines the function of the tooth. Molars, canines, and incisors all have different functions based on shape.


The enamel is the tough outer shell of your tooth. It protects the internal structures from damage and consists of calcium phosphate minerals that are the hardest found on the body. Even though this is the hardest tissue, it can easily be damaged and not repaired since it is not living. The enamel can be damaged by what we eat and drink and by not brushing. It can also be damaged if we breathe through our mouth a lot of smoke.


Underneath the enamel, you will find the dentin. This part is composed of tiny tunnel-like microscopic tubules and minerals. Even though it is made of minerals like enamel, this part is nine times softer than the outside shell. When your dentin is exposed, your tooth will become highly sensitive to chewing and hot and cold sensations. This is due to the stimulation traveling through these tunnels.


The center of your tooth, called the pulp, contains blood vessels and nerve tissue. Both dentin and enamel are known as hard tissues and are calcified. This means that the pulp is the only part of your tooth that is soft tissue. This part is significantly softer than the two outer layers and the softest part of the tooth.


The cementum is the layer of tissue that connects the tooth’s roots to the jawbone and gums. When this is damaged, you will notice your tooth start to become more mobile. Keep it clean with proper flossing and mouthwash.

Gum Line

The gum line is essentially the bed where all your teeth are rooted. It is where the tooth and gum meet and one of the most important areas to keep clean in your mouth. The actual meeting point of the tooth and gum line is called the tooth’s neck. It commonly collects bacteria and debris, making it a ripe breeding ground for plaque buildup as well as gingivitis and gum disease. This is why when Dr. Sharma speaks to you about oral hygiene, he emphasizes proper gum care. Making sure to floss your teeth and use a proper mouth rinse can help keep your gums healthy.


What you find below the gum line is the part of the tooth called the root. This part is not visible to the bare eye, but it does make up more than 60% of the overall mass of your tooth. Its name comes from its primary function, which is to root or ground your tooth in place. The root’s outer layer is the cementum. It consists of hard connective tissue and connects the tooth to the periodontal ligament. This is the part responsible for keeping the tooth in its place in the jaw.

Tooth Conditions

With that basic tooth anatomy in mind, keep in mind how various tooth conditions affect your teeth.


This is the colorless film that is sticky and filled with bacteria that develops on teeth after eating certain foods. It is what we aim to remove with brushing and flossing.


These are when the bacteria have caused enamel damage and damage to deeper tooth structures. Most are found in premolars and molars.


This is a general term for tooth disease such as cavities.


Gingivitis is a condition when the gums become inflamed around the tooth crown. This is often a result of tartar and plaque buildup.


This is when there is inflammation of deeper parts of the tooth, such as the jawbone, cementum, and periodontal ligament. Often, the cause is poor oral hygiene.


When plaque combines with minerals, it becomes tartar. This requires professional removal by a dentist.


This is when the top teeth protrude over the bottom teeth.


This is when the lower teeth protrude past the top teeth.

Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity happens when one or several of your teeth become sensitive to temperature. This is usually because the dentin has become exposed.


Bruxism is another term for teeth grinding. Common causes include sleep disorders, anxiety, and stress. It often happens while the person is sleeping. A sore jaw and headache may be symptoms.

Knowing these different parts of your tooth’s anatomy can help you have a better understanding of proper dental hygiene and how to get it done. If you are experiencing tooth pain or notice a difference in your teeth, contact our dental offices in Chicago for an appointment today!



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