In order to best understand a problem with a tooth, we need to first understand what a healthy tooth looks like and how it is made up.
So, in Part 1 we will examine the simple anatomy of a tooth.
At the top of a tooth is the enamel, on the crown of the tooth, which we normally see. The second layer is called the dentin, and the third layer inside the tooth is the pulp, or the nerve tissue. Below this point are the roots in the bone.
Most of the tooth is under the surface, like an iceberg. The portion of the tooth that is above the gum line where we can see it is called the crown.
The purpose of the tooth determines the shape of the crown. For example, the crown of a molar is flat, for grinding, and the crown of a front tooth (incisor) is sharp, for cutting.
The outer, top-most layer of the tooth is called enamel, and again, this is the layer that we see – it covers the crown. Tooth enamel is the hardest and most mineralized tissue in the entire body. At the same time, this enamel can be easily damaged.
Where the crown of the tooth and the soft tissue of the gum meet is called the gumline.
This is the layer in the tooth itself that is just below the enamel. Although it is the layer that protects the nerve, it is porous, with millions of microscopic tubes, called dentin tubules, leading directly to the pulp. These tubules are filled with cellular fluid.
The soft tissue in the center of the tooth is called the pulp, and is where the nerve tissue and the blood vessels are. Tooth decay that reaches the pulp can cause a great deal of pain.
The root is embedded in the bone of the jaw, and anchors the tooth to bone. The root makes up two-thirds of the tooth itself.
Take a look at this video where Dr. Mastrovich explains the tooth in detail:
Dental fractures can occur in various places on the tooth – they can occur in the enamel or down into the dentin, or even deeper. They can occur obliquely, horizontally, or vertically, and they all have different ramifications of tooth pain and its treatment that we’ll talk about in the rest of this series as we go through the various types of fractures.