Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Cavities Anatomy

To better understand dental caries, it helps to understand the anatomy of the teeth.


  • Primary or baby teeth: 12 total teeth
  • Permanent or secondary teeth: 32 total teeth

Tooth types:
  • Incisors: central and lateral incisors cut the food
  • Cuspids or canines cut and tear food
  • Pre-molars or bicuspids: shear the food
  • Molars: grind the food

Parts of a tooth:
  • Crown: The visible portion of a tooth.
  • Root: The portion of the tooth embedded in the gum.
  • Pulp: Located in the center of the tooth, it contains the arteries, veins, nerves and lymphatic tissue.

Layers of a tooth:
  • Dentin: underlies the enamel on the crown and cementum on the root
  • Enamel: the outer layer of the crown of the tooth; can be eroded by a cavity
  • Cementum: The outer layer of tissue covering the dentin on the root of the tooth

Portions of the tooth that hold it in place:
  • Gingiva: the gums are the soft tissues that surround the base of the tooth
  • Root canal: The canal in the root of the tooth is where the nerve and blood vessels travel with nutrients to the tooth from the mandible or the maxilla.
  • Ligament: The connective tissue that surrounds the root of a tooth and connects it to the maxilla or mandible.
  • Bone: Alveolar bone forms tooth socket and part of the teeth.

Last Updated: Nov 3, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Cavities References
  1. Brook I. Microbiology and management of endodontic infections in children. J Clin Pediatr Dent. 2003 Fall;28(1):13-7. [14604136]
  2. Douglass AB, Douglass JM. Common dental emergencies. Am Fam Physician. 2003 Feb 1;67(3):511-6. [12588073]
  3. Preshaw PM. Antibiotics in the treatment of periodontitis. Dent Update. 2004 Oct;31(8):448-50, 453-4, 456. [15554049]
  4. Roberts A. Bacteria in the mouth. Dent Update. 2005 Apr;32(3):134-6, 139-40, 142. [15881508]
  5. Wayne DB, Trajtenberg CP, Hyman DJ. Tooth and periodontal disease: a review for the primary-care physician. South Med J. 2001 Sep;94(9):925-32. [11592756]
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