Get To Know Your Teeth

woman smiling

Teeth help us chew, talk, and smile, but they aren’t just white hunks of enamel attached to your jawbone. Those 32 white wonders in your mouth are highly developed tools, each featuring distinct parts designed to perform a specific job.

Until something goes wrong with our teeth, we rarely give them the respect and attention they deserve. But when you know more about how your teeth work, you’ll understand the “why” behind lifelong good dental care.

Let’s take a tour of your mouth’s anatomy, starting with the types of teeth in our mouth from front to back:

  • Incisors are those showcase teeth in the front (four on top, four on bottom) and are usually the first teeth to erupt. We use incisors to take those initial bites of food.
  • Canines are your sharpest teeth, those fang-like ones used for ripping and tearing food apart.
  • Premolars, or bicuspids, appear at about age 10, with the second premolars erupting about a year later–they’re used for chewing and grinding food. Adults have four premolars on each side of their mouths, two on the upper and two on the lower jaw.
  • Molars are used for chewing and grinding food. Permanent molars don’t replace any primary teeth, but they grow further back in the jaw. Third molars, or wisdom teeth, are the last teeth to develop, although some people never develop third molars at all. Wisdom teeth are commonly removed if they are causing crowding in the mouth

Each of your teeth shares the same anatomical makeup, with five basic parts. From the visible part of your tooth moving down, let’s look at which part of each tooth does what:

  • Crown: the crown is used for chewing, talking, smiling, and more. Different teeth–canines, incisors, molars–have different crown shapes, which is the visible portion of the tooth seen in your mouth.
  • Enamel: your tooth’s “armor,” enamel is the hard and resilient tissue that protects your crown against all that eating we do. Enamel also insulates our teeth from too hot or too cold temperatures and protects the tooth’s more fragile parts, the dentin and pulp. That’s why protecting your enamel is such a critical part of dental care.
  • Dentin: just underneath the tooth enamel’s surface, dentin is composed of microscopic tubules that make up most of a tooth’s structure. If your gums recede, you’re going to feel it, because those tubules are now allowing hot or cold foods to directly stimulate a nerve in your tooth.
  • Pulp: the pulp’s soft tissue lies in the center of your tooth and is full of large nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels. Pulp helps form dentin and keep blood flowing to help prevent your teeth from becoming brittle.
  • Root: the root makes up about two-thirds of the tooth and holds it in place, extending into your mouth’s jawbone. The root also enables teeth to withstand the force of biting and chewing.

Feeling more schooled on how your teeth work? We hope a little extra knowledge will keep you motivated to prioritize consistent oral health care and regular dental checkups. And remember, your team at Loudoun Smile Center is always here to answer questions and be your trusted resource for information on your dental health.

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