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What’s In a Tooth?

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We all know that it’s important to brush and floss our teeth regularly, but how much do you really know about your teeth? 

We all know that it’s important to brush and floss our teeth regularly, but how much do you really know about your teeth?  For example, did you know that the enamel on your teeth is the hardest surface in your body?  It turns out that most people know very little about their teeth.  Read on to learn about the anatomy of the tooth and the different types of teeth you have in your mouth.

The Anatomy of a Tooth

Crown: The crown is the only part of a tooth that we normally see.  The crowns of our teeth are shaped differently, according to the function of each tooth.  The teeth towards the front of our mouths are sharp because they are used for cutting, while our molars (back teeth) have flat surfaces that we use to grind food.

Gumline: Though the gum line is not an actual part of a tooth, it’s important to note because this area is where tartar and plaque can build up, leading to cavities and gum diseases like gingivitis.

Root:  The root is the portion of a tooth that is embedded in the jaw bone.  This portion makes up about two-thirds of a tooth, and is responsible for grounding the tooth and holding it securely in the proper position.

Enamel:  The enamel is the outer coating of a tooth.  Enamel can be damaged by decay, and once enamel is lost it does not grow back, so it’s very important to keep your teeth clean and tartar and plaque free.

Dentin:  The layer of the tooth that rests below the enamel is called the dentin.  The dentin is composed of millions of tiny tubes that lead to the tooth pulp.  If decay is able to progress through the enamel, it attacks the dentin next.

Pulp:  Though the surface of your teeth is the hardest surface in your body, the pulp, or innermost layer of a tooth, is soft.  This is where blood vessels and nerve tissues are, so people usually experience pain if dental decay reaches the pulp.

Types of Teeth

The average adult has roughly 32 teeth, and there are a number of different types of teeth distinguished by shape, size, position, and purpose.  Here is a quick run-down on the different types of teeth in your mouth:

Incisors:  The average adult has 8 incisors—4 on top and 4 on the bottom of the mouth.  These are the chisel-shaped, sharp front teeth that we use for cutting food.

Canines:  Most adults have 4 canines, split evenly between the top and bottom of the mouth.  Canines are also referred to as cuspids because they are cusp-shaped.  We use these teeth to tear food.

Premolars:  Next to the canine teeth, you will find the premolars.  Premolars, of which we have 8, are also called bicuspids because they feature two sharp cusps on their biting surface.  Premolars help us crush and tear food.

Molars:  These are the teeth furthest to the back of your mouth, and you most likely have 12 of them.  Molars have more than two cusps on the biting surface and are used for grinding food prior to swallowing.

Source:
Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center

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