Common medical questions and answers through blogs and articles

The Anatomy of Teeth

The Tooth Fairy deposits spare change for each tooth she collects from under your pillow while you are fast asleep.  I don’t know what the going rate for teeth which have wriggled free from their gums is these days, but once you read about just how extraordinary your pearly whites really are, you’ll realize that all these years later you were gypped!

Composition of a tooth

If you Google Images to find the composition of a tooth, you might be surprised just how many layers or actual components you will see.

There are four major tissues that make up the tooth:

The tooth is supported in place by:

  • Gum
  • Bone

Each part of the tooth


Your tooth’s enamel is the hardest and most highly mineralized substance of your entire body.  That is because its most-predominant mineral is crystalline calcium phosphate.  The large amount of minerals found in enamel accounts for its strength.  When looking at a tooth, the enamel is the part of the tooth that is normally seen and it is sometimes referred to as the “crown” (your dentist refers to an artificial cap that he places on a tooth that is above the gum line as a “crown” as well).  Beneath the resilient enamel, the tooth is supported by dentin.  A whopping 96% of tooth enamel consists of mineral, with water and organic material composing the rest.  There are many different shades of teeth, but the predominant and most-normal color of tooth enamel varies from light yellow to grayish white.   Even though your tooth’s enamel is prized for its hard and resilient properties, it is still brittle and prone to cracking and chipping.  Interestingly, despite this tough exterior, if you stand in the sun in front of the mirror, the sunlight hitting your teeth will give the illusion that the teeth are translucent.  That would make you think of your teeth as weak, but that is not so.  As we age, our teeth enamel loses clarity and is more apt to suffer the consequences of stains from coffee, tea, tobacco or poor dental maintenance.  Then discoloration occurs, and this condition may be remedied by a trip to the dentist for polishing and bleaching and the enamel will be restored to its previous luster.


Just beneath the prized enamel layer is dentin, which is the tissue between the enamel or cementum and the pulp chamber. Dentin is a mineralized connective tissue with an organic matrix of collagenous proteins.  Its composition is 70% inorganic materials, 20% organic materials, and 10% water this accounts for its softer properties to enamel’s strong resilient ones.  Since it is softer than enamel, it decays much more rapidly, and, if not properly cared for, is subject to cavities.  Dentin is an important component of each tooth, and, while dentin is not as hard as enamel, it forms the bulk of the tooth and can be quite sensitive if the protection of the enamel is lost.


The specialized bony substance which covers the root of the tooth is called cementum.  Its composition is approximately 45% inorganic material, 33% organic material (mainly collagen) and 22% water.  Cementum’s principal role is to serve as a medium by which the periodontal ligaments can attach to the tooth for stability.  Like dentin, the cementum of a tooth, like the dentin, is not as hard as the enamel, but is a layer of bone-like tissue covering the root.


The pulp is known as either the dental pulp or root canal.  Here you find the central part of the tooth and it is filled with soft connective tissue.  This tissue is comprised of blood vessels and nerves that enter into the tooth from the root.  Sometimes the pulp is referred to as the tooth’s “nerve”.  In conjunction with the pulp, you often hear about the procedure of a pulp canal or a root canal.  This is a painstaking and painful dental process which your dentist must perform when the pulp becomes inflamed, infected or becomes unable to deliver nutrients to the tooth.  Performing a root canal is the best option to perform to save an infected tooth rather than pulling it.

Structures around the tooth

Periodontal ligaments which are thousands of fibers which fasten the cementum to the bony socket.  These periodontal ligaments act as shock absorbers between the jaw bone while you are chewing.

The oral mucosa describes the moist tissue that lines the mouth.

The gingivae (gums) are soft tissues that surround the teeth and bone.  Their principal job is to protect the bones, roots of the teeth and provide an easily lubricated surface in the mouth.

The bone provides a socket that surrounds and supports the roots of the teeth.

Nerves and blood supply are within the teeth and are sensitive to a wide variety of stimuli and the blood supply is necessary for the tooth to thrive in the mouth.

See just how complex your teeth are?  This is why you want to ensure they get the very best TLC available to keep them healthy for the long term.  Be sure to see a top dentist to keep your smile big and bright and healthy.

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