Tooth Anatomy


Becky Larson, RDH

Tooth Anatomy

Sometimes when I am talking to my patients I can tell they are a bit confused!  I never want my patients to be confused.  Communication is so important when trying to give important information about oral health.  This blog is just a quick overview of the anatomy of the tooth.  Knowing a few simple terms can eliminate confusion and patient’s can better understand why their dentist and hygienist are giving specific recommendations for home care and dental treatment.

Tooth Anatomy

This diagram breaks the tooth into two parts: the crown and the root.  The root surface of the tooth is the part that is covered by gum tissue in a healthy mouth.   The crown of the tooth is that part we actually see.  Sometimes the root of the tooth is exposed due to gum recession and can be sensitive to cold or vibration.  The gums or gingival cover the jaw bone in which the teeth sit.

Teeth are composed of several layers.  The outer most layer is the enamel, which is generally white in color.  Though it is the hardest substance in the human body, it can still decay and erode if not taken care of.  Just under the enamel is the dentin which is much softer and more yellow in color.  When viewing radiographs, if the dentist sees a cavity that has progressed through the entire enamel layer and into the dentin, a filling is necessary.

Radiograph (xray) showing a cavity that has progressed through the enamel into the dentin:


Under the dentin layer is the pulp.  There are also nerves and blood vessels in the pulp chamber that extend down the roots of the tooth.  If a cavity has progressed into the pulp chamber, it’s likely that a root canal is necessary.  During the process of a root canal, the nerves and pulp inside the canals are taken out.  The inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed to prevent further pathology.

Radiograph showing tooth roots after a root canal:

Root Canal

Understanding tooth anatomy can help patients better understand their dental needs!  Always consult your dentist or dental hygienist if you have concerns or questions about your teeth or oral health.

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