Tooth Structure 101: Breaking Down the Structure of a Tooth

Diagram of the structure of a tooth

With each trip to the dentist, there is a lot of focus on dental care, oral hygiene, and of course, paying for your dental work.

But how well does your dentist help you understand the tooth structure itself and the complex ins and outs of your tooth?

You may not realize it, but your teeth are made up of many layers that help you chew and speak. Understanding the various parts of a tooth will help you take care of them better.

Explaining the Structure of a Human Tooth

There are a few main components of tooth structure. This includes:

  • Pulp
  • Dentin
  • Enamel
  • Cementum
  • Root
  • Gingiva

A human tooth is made up of several different parts. At the center of the tooth is the pulp, which contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue.

Surrounding the pulp is dentin, a hard substance that makes up the majority of the tooth. Finally, the outer layer of the tooth is made up of enamel, which is the hardest substance in the human body, even harder than bone.

The tooth is anchored into the jawbone by a root, which is covered in a layer of cementum. The gums, or gingiva, surround the base of the tooth, helping to protect it from damage and infection.

What are the 5 Sides of the Tooth Structure

A tooth has five different sides, each of which plays an important role in its overall structure and function.

  1. The crown is the top part of the tooth that is visible above the gum line. It is covered in enamel, which protects the underlying layers of the tooth.
  2. The root is the bottom part of the tooth that is anchored into the jawbone. It is covered in cementum, which helps to hold the tooth in place.
  3. The mesial side is the part of the tooth that is closest to the center of the mouth. For example, the mesial side of your front teeth would be the side that faces your other front teeth.
  4. The distal side is the part of the tooth that is farthest away from the center of the mouth. For example, the distal side of your front teeth would be the side that faces away from your other front teeth.
  5. The occlusal surface is the top part of the tooth that is used for chewing and grinding food. It is typically flatter than the other sides of the tooth to make it easier to grind up food.

The Most Common Parts of a Tooth Where Cavities Occur

One important aspect of the structure of a tooth is understanding where cavities are most likely to occur.

Possessing this knowledge will help you focus your oral hygiene on susceptible areas that are prone to decay.

The chewing surface of your molars is a common area for cavities to form. These surfaces are covered in small grooves and pits that can be difficult to clean, making them a prime location for bacteria to thrive.

The area where two teeth meet is also a common spot for cavities to form. This area can be difficult to reach with a toothbrush, which can allow plaque and bacteria to build up.

Any area of the tooth that is not cleaned properly can be at risk for cavities. This is why it is important to brush and floss regularly to remove plaque and bacteria from all areas of the tooth.

What are Fracture Lines?

Fracture lines are cracks or breaks in your tooth structure usually caused by chewing hard foods, grinding teeth, or blunt force trauma.

These are deep fractures that extend into the underlying layers of teeth making them difficult to detect.

Some common signs of a tooth fracture include pain when biting or chewing, sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, swelling or tenderness around the affected tooth, and a visible crack or chip in the tooth.

Treatment options for a tooth fracture depend on the severity and location of the fracture, as well as the overall health of the tooth. For minor fractures, a dental filling or bonding may be sufficient to restore the tooth’s structure and function.

It’s important that you visit us if you believe you have a tooth fracture.

Understanding your tooth structure is a great way to stay informed and well-educated about overall oral health.

Learn more about oral health in Dr. Kami’s new book, If Your Mouth Could Talk!

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About the Author

About Dr. Kami Hoss

Dr. Kami Hoss is a nationally sought-after expert with a master’s in craniofacial biology from USC, a doctorate in dental surgery from UCLA, and a post-doctorate in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. With over 25 years of experience in the dental field, Dr. Hoss is a #1 National Best Seller author frequently featured on NBC, ABC, FOX, NPR, and CBS affiliates, and founder of The Super Dentists, one of the leading multi-specialty dental practices in the country.

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