Teeth: Your Bite-Sized Guide

dental hygienist holding up a mouth model

You depend on them to eat for survival and use them daily, but have you ever wondered what your teeth are actually made of and how they work? If so, read on because we have you covered with all things teeth.

Understanding Human Teeth

As humans, we’re what’s called diphyodonts, which means that we develop 2 sets of teeth, deciduous or baby teeth, and permanent teeth. We usually begin to lose our baby teeth around 6 years old and optimally grow 32 permanent adult teeth.

What Are the Tooth Types?


These square-shaped, sharp front teeth help us bite into foods. We have 4 on the top and 4 on the bottom, with our inner 2 called central incisors and the teeth outside of those called lateral incisors. Incisors have a single root.


Canines, also referred to as eyeteeth or cuspids, are the 4 sharp teeth — 2 upper and 2 lower — sitting beside the lateral incisors that we use to tear our food. Canines have a pointed cusp and the longest root of any teeth.


The premolars, or bicuspids, grind and mash food. There are 4 upper and 4 lower adjacent to the canines. The premolar closest to the middle of the mouth is called the first premolar, and the furthest away is the second premolar. This tooth type has 3 or 4 cusps. The first premolar has 2 roots, while the other premolars have a single root.


The very back teeth in your mouth are molars. These teeth have a broad, flat surface with 4 or 5 cusps, grooves, and points used for vigorous chewing. We have 12 total, with 3 on each of the mouth’s quadrants. These are separated into first, second, and third molars — the third are our “wisdom teeth.” These often must be removed because they crowd out other teeth. Mandibular molars located on the bottom jaw have 2 roots, while maxillary molars on the top jaw usually have 3.

What Substances Make Up the Teeth?


Pulp is the inner part of the tooth, made up of nerves, blood vessels, specialized cells, and connective tissue. This jelly-like substance is found in the tooth’s crown and root canal. Pulp creates dentin and keeps it healthy by providing nutrients and moisture. The dental pulp is the only part of the tooth containing blood vessels and nerves that let you recognize temperature or pressure changes. Damage to your pulp causes your teeth to lose blood and nerve supply.


The middle layer of the tooth surrounds the pulp and makes up most of the tooth structure. It’s usually yellow-colored, which can be somewhat seen through the tooth’s enamel. Harder and denser than bone, dentin is calcified and grows for the life of the tooth.


Enamel is the hardest tissue in the body that makes up the outer layer of the teeth’s crown and is above the gum line. The function of this mineralized, non-living substance is to help teeth handle chewing pressure and protect them from bacteria and temperature changes from food.


Cementum sits below the gum line and covers the outside of the tooth’s root, holding it into place within the jawbone. Cementum is partially living and non-living and is as hard as bone.

Park Avenue Is Here for You and Your Teeth

There you have it — what makes up your teeth and how they work together to help you eat and enjoy your meals. When it comes to caring for your mouth, gum, and teeth, Park Avenue Dental is your expert dental team to help you keep your teeth clean and healthy through our preventative, general, cosmetic, family, and restorative services. Contact us today to request an appointment.