There is so much more to our teeth than what meets the eye. The roots of our teeth extend deep below the surface and are held in place within the jawbone. Having a general understanding of the basic anatomy of a tooth can help you understand the various procedures we perform in our Knoxville, TN general dentistry office. When you understand the different parts of a tooth and how they function, you can also better identify problems and know when to seek treatment.
Anatomy of a Tooth: Parts of the Tooth
Our teeth consist of four different dental tissues. The three hard tissues are the enamel, dentin, and cementum. The fourth tissue, known as the pulp, is a soft tissue. In addition to these tissues, there are other parts of the tooth as well that serve a variety of different functions.
Outer Parts of the Tooth
- Crown: The crown is the general term used for the portion of the teeth that are exposed above the gum line. If a natural crown sustains significant decay or damage, we can place artificial crowns to maintain functionality.
- Enamel: This is one of the hardest tissues in the body. Enamel covers the entire crown of the tooth, protecting the inner layers of tissues. Although hard, enamel is also brittle and can break down over time when exposed to decay and other excessive forces. Unlike other tissues in our bodies, enamel cannot repair itself. As the enamel on our teeth wears off, it exposes deeper layers of the tooth, resulting in sensitivity and other complications.
Inner Parts of the Tooth
- Dentin: Dentin is another hard, yet porous tissue that sits just beneath the tooth’s enamel. Combined with enamel, these two tissues are responsible for your tooth coloring. The tubules that make dentin porous also cause sensitivity to hot and cold and acidic or sticky foods. This is because these tubules connect to the nerves within the tooth.
- Cementum: As the third hard tissue in the tooth, cementum covers the root of the tooth. It connects the tooth to a periodontal ligament, which holds the tooth within its socket.
- Pulp Chamber: The pulp chamber houses the pulp, or soft tissue, of the tooth. Within the pulp are blood vessels and nerves. This chamber is situated at the center of the tooth, beneath the dentin. When cavities or infection reach the pulp, it is difficult to save the tooth.
- Root: Your tooth is actually about two-thirds root. The roots are embedded into the jawbone (held in place by the cementum and periodontal ligaments). The bottoms of the roots have small openings, called apical foramen, through which the nerves and blood vessels connect to the rest of the mouth.
- Root Canal: Many people refer to the dental treatment as a “root canal”. The root canal, however, is an opening within the root and pulp chamber through which the nerves and blood vessels travel. Root canal therapy is the procedure used to eliminate infection or disease from this part of the tooth.
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Whether you have a sore tooth or just need your regular cleaning, contact us today to schedule an appointment.