Although the femur is the strongest bone in the body, the teeth are actually the hardest substance! They have to be in order to stand up to the rigors of chewing. The anatomy and dental structure of our mouths have evolved to make human beings the perfect omnivore; our front teeth (incisors) are designed for biting through and cutting our food, whilst our back teeth (molars) are designed for chewing. This allows us to eat pretty much anything!
Anatomy of the teeth
Adults have 32 teeth, and children have 20. The teeth are held by the bones of the jaw, and have multiple parts:
- Enamel – the tooth’s exterior, which is hard, white, and made primarily of calcium phosphate.
- Dentin – living tissue within the tooth that secrete a hard mineral substance
- Pulp – softer than dentin, pulp contains nerves and blood vessels, which is why cavities and other tooth injuries hurt!
- Cementum – connective tissue that keeps the gums, jawbone, and teeth roots bound together.
- Periodontal ligament – tissue that helps keep the teeth tight inside the jaw.
There are five different main types of tooth within the mouth:
- Incisors – the front four teeth, top and bottom (8 total) that are used for biting and cutting.
- Canines – our “vampire teeth” are four pointed teeth, situated at the edges of the incisors. These are for tearing meat.
- Premolars – we have 8 of these as well, and they are between the canines and proper molars. These help with chewing
- Molars – the best teeth for chewing, they are flat to help grind up food. We have 8 of them.
- Wisdom teeth – these are our third set of molars. There are 4 of them, but as we’ve evolved, our jaws have gotten smaller. Nowadays, in most cases wisdom teeth must be surgically removed to prevent other teeth from being displaced.
Anatomy of the mouth
The mouth is made up of the following components, (in addition to the teeth):
Gums – soft tissue that holds the teeth in place and protects them as well as the jawbone.
Tongue – the tongue is a muscle that we use to speak, chew, and swallow.
Hard palate – this is the hard roof of the mouth that extends from the front teeth towards the back of the jaw.
Soft palate – the soft roof of the mouth back towards the throat.
Cheeks – muscle, fat, and mucous membranes that allow us to chew, swallow, smile, speak, and eat food.