Anatomy of a Tooth

Working at a dental office, a lot of the time we hear patients say they have sensitivity in a tooth that feels like “a nerve is exposed.”  For the most part, that isn’t the case. So what is it that feels like that anyway?  Well, here is guide to what a tooth is made up of and why we may feel that sensation.

anatomy-of-a-toothThe Anatomy Tooth Breakdown:
The outside layer of a tooth is enamel which most people are familiar with; the white part of our teeth.  Enamel is the hardest part of teeth and is made up of calcium phosphate which is the name given to a family of minerals containing calcium ions.

Under enamel is a substance called dentin which is made of living cells, minerals, and water.  It is yellow in color which depending on the translucency of your enamel, can greatly affect the color of your teeth.  If your enamel is thinner, you may be able to notice the dentin more and have a yellow shade to your teeth.  If your enamel wears away from erosion (generally from drinking and eating acidic things) you will end up exposing dentin which then will be prone to cavities.

The next layer is the pulp.  This soft tissue is the “living” part of the tooth. It is what encases the blood vessels and nerves.  A pulp can die due to numerous things.  Lots of times it can die because a cavity is really deep in a tooth and close to the pulp. Also, an injury can cause the pulp to die and sometimes, we just don’t know what happens.  When the nerves of a tooth are dying or dead, this is what will most likely send you to the dentist for a root canal.

Cementum surrounds the roots of the teeth and comes into junction with enamel just below the gum line.  It also supports the tooth within the gum and jaw. Cementum is usually the area that people feel sensitivity that makes them think a nerve is exposed. If gums recede, this can cause exposure of the junction of enamel and cementum which is normally covered by gum tissue.  This can cause sensitivity to cold, sometimes hot and most definitely sweets!

The last part of a tooth is the periodontal ligament. This tissue holds the tooth within the jaw and attaches it to a bony socket.

Now you know the anatomy of a tooth. Don’t worry, we won’t pop quiz you at your next dental appointment, but we hope this helps clarify a few things for you!

See Also: Guide to Fluoride: Why You Need it

Information compiled from WebMD and staff at Szmanda Dental Center 2014