Teeth have lots of nicknames: pearly whites, chompers, chicklets. But no matter how you refer to them, don't forget their importance. Teeth perform several functions. In addition to chewing food for digestion, they also assist with word pronunciation while providing shape to the face. Learning about teeth structure is just as important when it comes to maintaining good oral care.
Types of Teeth
There are four different tooth types. Starting all the way in the back of the mouth you'll find a total of twelve molars: six each on the upper and lower jaw. Included in the molars are the four wisdom teeth. They're the last permanent teeth to pop through. Molars are the flattest and widest teeth a person has.
The premolars reside just in front of the molars. Premolars are also referred to as bicuspids. The eight total premolars – four on the top and four on the bottom – have flat tops to chew food and maintain facial height.
Next are the canines. The four total canines can be found on each side of the upper and lower incisors. They're recognized by their slight point which helps to chew food while providing lip support.
In the very front of the mouth are the eight incisors. There are four on each jaw. Incisors are thin and straight and are primarily for biting into food. They also help with pronunciation and lip support.
Teeth appear to be white, hard substances primarily responsible for grinding up food. But they're more complex than that. The American Dental Association offers a thorough breakdown of what exactly comprises a tooth.
- Gums. Teeth are housed in gums. Gums also protect a tooth's roots and any teeth that have yet to break through.
- Crown. This is the top, visible part of a tooth.
- Enamel. Enamel is the substance that covers and protects all teeth. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. Since it doesn't regenerate, preventing tooth decay is critical to keep the enamel intact.
- Pulp chamber. This is the space inside of a tooth that houses the blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue.
- Root canal. The canal provides a passageway for the nerves and blood vessels.
- Root. The portion of the tooth that's found in the bone socket is the root.
- Neck. The neck is the area that connects the crown with the root.
- Cementum. A hard connective tissue that covers a tooth's root is called the cementum.
- Dentin. This layer is located beneath the enamel and cementum. Microscopic tubules that allow various food types access to nerves are enclosed here. When enamel is worn away from a tooth, the dentin becomes vulnerable to sensitivity.
- Alveolar bone. The alveolar bone is the portion of the jaw that encompasses the roots of the teeth.
- Periodontal ligament. A tooth's root is connected to its socket by these collagenous connective tissue fibers.
Knowledge Is Power
You only get one set of permanent teeth so treat them with care. Knowing about teeth structure is a good way to understand what makes for a sufficient oral care regimen. Start with brushing at least twice a day. Brush with a silica toothpaste like Colgate Total Advanced Deep Clean to not only keep your breath fresh but to also prevent cavities and gingivitis. Complement good brushing habits with regular flossing. Lastly, remember to schedule regular dental checkups. A good dentist and your dental hygienist are your two best friends when it comes to keeping your whole mouth healthy and clean.