Teeth are kinda weird when you think about them for too long. Are they bones? Then why can they ache and be sore sometimes? What are teeth made out of actually? And what do you make of all the different shapes and sizes of teeth you have in your mouth? Let the questions end here, as this article dives into the anatomy of a tooth.
This article covers:
- What a tooth is made of
- How every type of tooth functions
So Teeth Aren’t Bones?
The common misconception is that teeth are a type of bone. Well think again. The first hint being our teeth are bare and exposed, unlike our bones which are concealed under layers of muscle and skin. Teeth are actually the hardest part of the human body, stronger than bone. Teeth are composed of calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals. They mostly consist of dentine, which is a calcified tissue.
The dentine of a tooth has a layer of enamel over top, which is the hard and shiny surface we brush with our toothbrushes. Tooth enamel doesn’t have the same regenerative powers that bones have. A broken bone can heal and grow back together, whereas a tooth cannot. A broken or cracked tooth will not heal, meaning the tooth either requires a root canal or needs to be removed from the mouth before it causes too much pain and brings infection.
The bloody core of a tooth is called dental pulp, and is not marrow. Dental pulp is actually the living portion of the tooth that is the reason why our teeth ache when we have cavities, and experience pain in our teeth when we eat something hot or cold. The dental pulp includes nerves, arteries, and veins that run through to the jaw bone.
Types of Teeth and Their Function
Humans are diphyodont, which means we develop two sets of teeth. The first set we know as our baby teeth, but also go by the names primary, milk, or temporary teeth. This first set only has 20 teeth that falls out around the age of six. Our second set replaces the fallen out primary teeth and are called adult or secondary teeth. This set has an overall total of 32 teeth. You may have noticed there are several different shapes and sizes of teeth in your mouth. All of them play a different function for chewing food down into small enough bites to go down easy.
Incisors are located in the front of your mouth. They are shaped squarish, and have sharp edges. We have four incisors on the top, and four at the bottom. We use these teeth to bite into our food. How would you bite into an apple without your incisors?
Our canine teeth are on either side of our incisors, which makes a total of four canine teeth in our mouth. These teeth are long and pointy, and can resemble small fangs. These teeth are used to tear tough foods, such as meat. The top set of canines are often called eyeteeth or cuspids.
Premolars are located behind the canines. They have flat surfaces that are used to mash and grind food. There are a total of eight premolars in the mouth in sets of two, four on top and four on the bottom. They are also known as bicuspids.
Molars (Includes Wisdom Teeth)
Lastly there are molars which are found behind the premolars. These teeth have points and grooves in their flattish surfaces that allows for more vigorous chewing to convert bite-sized food into even smaller chunks that are safe to travel down the esophagus. There are a total of 12 molars, split evenly between each jaw. The one following the premolar is called the first molar, followed by the second molar and lastly the third molar. The third molar is known by another name: a wisdom tooth. These molars are often removed because of their tendencies to crowd out the other teeth and are prone to pain and infection.
Teeth are often something we don’t think about. It’s easy to take them for granted, but it’s important to remember how much we actually use our teeth for. Our teeth make eating and smiling possible, which is why tooth care is really important. Don’t forget to brush and floss daily, and visit your local dentist a couple times a year for check-ups and cleaning. Now those professionals really know something about the anatomy of a tooth.