Oral hygiene, along with periodic check-ups with a dentist, are very important to maintaining a healthy, attractive smile. Should any problems arise, an understanding of the anatomy of our teeth can prove very helpful. The following article describes the main characteristics, the structure and the anatomy of the teeth.
The function of the teeth
The teeth are highly resistant mineralised structures that come in different forms and sizes. They are housed in the jawbones, inside cavities known as sockets, and they are classified as incisors, canines, premolars and molars, making for a total of 16 teeth per arch, subdivided in this manner: 4 incisors, 2 canines, 4 pre-molars, 6 molars.
Each type of tooth as a specific function: the canines are for grabbing and tearing off food, the incisors are for ripping it into pieces and the premolars and molars are for chewing it with a mechanical grinding motion.
The structure of the teeth
We can divide the structure of the teeth into three parts: the crown, the root and the neck.
The crown is the visible portion of the tooth that emerges from the socket and the gums. Its form differs, depending on the type of tooth involved. Canines are pointed, incisors are flat, and molars and premolars come with grooves, plus a number of cusps.
The root, the part of the tooth we do not see, is inserted in the socket and tied to the bone by the periodontal ligament. Its length is greater than that of the crown. Canines, incisors and the lower premolars have only one root, while molars and premolars can have double or triple roots.
The collar is the portion between the crown and the root, around which the gum line develops. It is a very important area, being the zone where bacterial plaque tends to accumulate. It is very important, therefore, that special attention be paid to cleaning the gingival collar while brushing the teeth, in order to prevent inflammation of the gums or diseases such as periodontitis or tooth decay.
Anatomy of the teeth: elements
The external portion of the crown is covered by a layer of dental enamel, the single hardest element in the human body, with minerals accounting for 96% of its composition and the remaining 4% consisting of organic substances. The enamel is translucent, and when it comes into contact with acidic foods, it tends to dissolve, which is why it must be protected with adequate, effective oral hygiene.
Underneath the enamel is the dentin, the substance that gives the teeth their colour. This yellowish tissue is similar to compact bone. It is composed of approximately 70% inorganic matter, with the remaining 30% consisting of organic matter and water. It is generated by the odontoblasts, which are cells found in the pulp.
Inside the dentin grows the dental pulp, the portion that gives the tooth its vitality. The pulp is a soft tissue that contains the nerve, the blood vessels and the cells (the odontoblasts that produce the dentin). As mentioned, the pulp is found inside the crown (pulp chamber), from where it extends along the roots (radicular pulp).