Know Your Smile: Anatomy of a Tooth

Tooth PartsHow Much Do You Know About Your Pearly Whites?


The tooth is a complex structure that is made up of several parts, most of which are not visible. Each plays an important role in the health and functioning of your teeth.

The teeth are made up of two major parts – the crown and the root. Your teeth are composed of four dental tissues that serve different functions. Three of them are hard tissues – enamel, dentin, and cementum. The fourth is a soft tissue – pulp.

  • Crown – the crown is the top part of the tooth, and the only part you can normally see. The shape of the crown determines the tooth’s function. For example, front teeth are sharp and chisel-shaped for cutting, while molars have flat surfaces for grinding.
  • Root – the root is the part of the tooth that is normally not visible in the moth and is embedded in the bone. The root makes up about two-thirds of the tooth and holds the tooth in place.
  • Enamel – enamel is the outermost layer of the tooth. It is a thin layer that gives our teeth a shiny appearance and makes them strong. Enamel is the hardest, most mineralized tissue in the body, but it can be damaged by decay if teeth are not cared for properly.
  • Dentin – dentin is the pale yellow layer of the tooth under the enamel and goes right down into the roots. It is softer than enamel but harder than bone. If decay is able to make its way through the enamel, it next attacks the dentin — where millions of tiny tubes lead directly to the dental pulp.
  • Pulp – the pulp is the soft tissue found in the center of all teeth, and contains the blood vessels and nerve tissue. If tooth decay reaches the pulp, you usually feel pain.
  • Cementum – cementum is the hard connective tissue that makes up the outer surface of the tooth root. It is much softer than enamel.


To watch a video on tooth structure and learn about other structures of the mouth and teeth (like the periodontal ligament and alveolar bone) visit the American Dental Association’s Mouth Healthy website.

The design of your mouth and it’s teeth is ingenious. Your mouth is important! So don’t take your oral health for granted. Brush and floss your teeth regularly, eat a healthy diet, and see your dentist regularly for dental cleanings and checkups. A Healthy Mouth = A Healthy Body…and a nice smile!

Read past and future “Know Your Smile” dental facts on our website.

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