Halley White Pediatric Dentistry Wilmington, NC

Halley White Pediatric Dentistry Wilmington, NC

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Anatomy of a Tooth...It's an Amazing Thing!

Teeth are amazing structures. In fact, it takes 10,000 genes to make up just one tooth while it takes only 30,000 to make up the entire human body! Composed of both layers and parts, each tooth has a specific job or function. Knowing more about these little wonders can help you not only understand more about your own teeth, but also help your child identify possible problems.

First and foremost teeth are covered by enamel, a substance that most of us have heard of but know little about. Enamel, as defined by DentalFind.com, is composed almost entirely of calcium salts and is the hardest substance in the body. Enamel covers the entire part of the tooth that lies above the gum line. Penelope McAllister, hygienist for Dr. Halley, reminds us that enamel is more than just the outer layer of the tooth, “Enamel is the tooth’s first line of defense against the bacteria that is in all of our mouths. Although it can withstand much abuse, and is harder than bone, we have to remember to do our part to keep it clean. Once enamel has been weakened and repaired due to decay it is no longer the protector it once was.”

Regular brushing and dental cleanings are the first step to keeping this shield in good shape. However, never underestimate the power of the composition of saliva and the role it plays in tooth decay. This is why siblings can have similar dental hygiene habits but completely different stories when it comes to decay. Be an active part of your child’s dental health by regularly examining their mouths and reporting any suspicious findings to Dr. Halley her and team. Early detection is key to ensuring that a small area of decay does not develop into a cavity requiring more extensive and expensive treatment.

Beneath the protective covering of the enamel lies a layer that is composed of tiny tubules. Dentin supports the enamel and contains more calcium than any other part of the tooth. The dentin layer is often yellow in appearance and makes up the majority of the tooth.

Following the dentin, the pulp is the softest part of the tooth that lies in its root and extends all of the way to the top part of the tooth (the crown). The pulp contains the blood vessels, the nerves and connective tissue inside a tooth and provides the tooth’s blood and nutrients. The pulp can be thought of as the lifeline to the tooth since it houses the structures that nourish the tooth. Commonly referred to as the “nerve” the pulp is also responsible for the following functions:

• Sensory Function - Pain from trauma to the dentin and/or pulp, differences in temperature, and pressure are caused by stimulation of the pulp.

• Formation of Dentin - The pulp is responsible for the formation of dentin. In response to trauma, the pulp forms secondary dentin, also known as reparative dentin.

• Nourishment - The pulp contains blood vessels that help to prevent the tooth from becoming brittle by keeping it moisturized and nourished.

The tooth is also composed of parts that allow it to serve as a chewing factory. The chewing surface, known as the crown, lies above the gum line and is covered in protective enamel. On molars, the crown is filled with pits and grooves and it is this area that may require sealants to prevent decay. The crown is composed mainly of dentin with pulp in the very center.

Below the gum line lies the root. This comprises approximately two-thirds of a tooth. The root is normally buried in bone and serves to anchor the tooth in position. A root may be single or divided into several branches and is composed of pulp at its innermost core.

For more information of these wonders we call teeth, visit the websites below…





  1. The anatomy of our tooth is truly amazing! I am very amazed by the formation of its parts, especially with the nerves and the blood vessels inside it. The function of every part is astonishing as well!
    My dentist (Raleigh) always uses his tooth chart to explain to me thoroughly the infected portion of my tooth. His method is very effective in conveying the message to me, and learn more about my teeth. Same with my sedation dentist (Raleigh), he also explains to me the procedures and the effect of sedation just to simply educate me and keep me aware. It is a very good way that a patient and the physician have open communication to avoid misunderstandings.