What Is A Tooth?

Our teeth are important to us. From your baby’s first tooth, to braces, to wisdom teeth, you expend a lot of time and energy caring for your family’s teeth, and your own teeth. But, have you ever wondered what makes a tooth? Understanding the anatomy of teeth can help us understand the steps we take to keep them healthy. If you or a loved one experience toothaches, cavities, or other dental problems, your northwest, IN, dentist, Dr. Nicholas Cain, can discuss the problem, and how it affects your dental health.

Tooth Anatomy

A tooth is made up of pulp, dentin, the root, the crown, cementum, and enamel.

Tooth Pulp

The very center of the tooth is pulp. Pulp is made up of connective tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. It is commonly referred to as “the nerve” of the tooth, because of its sensitivity if exposed. The blood vessels and nerves in the dental pulp connect to the nerves and blood vessels in the jaw through tiny openings in the bottom of the tooth’s roots.  The pulp is the softest part of the tooth.


Dentin is a calcified tissue that surrounds the dental pulp. It consists of microscopic tubules that contain fluid. If tooth decay passes through the enamel, these fluid filled tubules can increase the rate of decay, as well as the sensation of pain.


The root of the tooth is located within the gum, as plant roots are located in soil. The root structure, similar to plant roots, varies depending on the size and shape of the tooth. The root is seated in the jaw bone which holds the tooth in place.


Unlike the crown of the tooth, the root is not protected by enamel. Cementum is a specialized, calcified substance covering the root of the tooth, and because cementum is softer than dentin, if the root becomes exposed it is vulnerable to decay.


The crown is the white part of the tooth that we see above the gumline. The tooth pulp and dentin form the inner part of the crown. The outer part of the crown consists of enamel which covers and protects the dentin. The shape of the crown is determined by the type of tooth. For example, molars are mostly flat with points to grind food, canines are pointed and sharp for tearing, and the front teeth are flat like the edge of a knife, but not as sharp.


Enamel is a mineral substance harder than bone. The crown is protected by enamel and is the outermost surface layer of the tooth. Enamel protects your teeth against tooth decay.


If you or a loved one is showing signs of tooth pain or decay, Dr. Cain will provide a thorough dental evaluation and recommend appropriate treatment.   As a native of northwest Indiana, Nicholas Cain, DDS, is dedicated to providing excellent general, preventive, cosmetic, and family dentistry services to the community that raised him. To schedule your next dental appointment, call Healthy Smiles today at 219-938-2637.