This week, we bring you some fall themed dental art created by illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky as a fun and educational tool to help you better understand the anatomy of a tooth. Be sure to impress your dentist and hygienist at your next visit by asking about the health of your cementum and/or dentin. You could even have some fun with it by turning the hot seat around: quiz them on the location of your periodontal ligament!

  • Crown: the anatomical area of teeth covered by enamel.
  • Enamel: the normally visible part of the tooth, covering the crown.
    • Fun fact: Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body and contains the highest percentage of minerals (1)
  • Dentin: a calcified tissue covered by enamel. Since enamel is translucent and dentin in yellow, it is the dentin that can affects the colour of a tooth.
  • Pulp Cavity: the central chamber of the tooth
  • Root canal: naturally occurring anatomic space within the root of a tooth.
  • Cementum: calcified substance covering the root of the tooth.
  • Periodontal Ligament: connective tissue that joins the cementum to the jaw bone
  • Root: the part of the tooth composed of dentin, found under the gum line. Molars can have up to four roots, whereas canine teeth have just one.

And now for the scary version of a tooth – discover what can happen without proper oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist (definitions and explanations from the Canadian Dental Association):

  • An artificial crown: (AKA a cap), is a hollow, artificial tooth used to cover a damaged or decayed tooth. The crown restores the tooth and protects it from further damage. Crowns can also be used to cover a discoloured or misshapen tooth. A tooth that has been fixed with a crown looks and works very much like a natural tooth.
  • Cavity: a very small hole that forms on the surface of a tooth. Cavities are caused when sugars in the food we eat and bacteria in our mouths mix together, producing a mild acid that eats away at outer layer of our teeth (called enamel).
  • Infected pulp: When bacteria (germs) enter your tooth through deep cavities, cracks or flawed fillings, your tooth can become abscessed. An abscessed tooth is a tooth with an infection in the pulp. If pulp becomes infected, it needs to be removed.
  • Plaque: clear and sticky substance that contains germs (or bacteria). It forms on a daily basis, at the location where your teeth and your gums meet. If plaque is not removed every day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar (also called calculus).
    • Tartar cannot be removed by brushing and flossing.
  • Gum tissue inflammation: In the early stages, gum disease is called gingivitis. Your gums may be a bit red and bleed when you brush, but you may not notice anything. As gingivitis gets worse, tiny pockets of infection form at the “point of attachment.”
  • Abscess: An abscessed tooth may cause pain and/or swelling. Your dentist may notice the infection from a dental x-ray or from other changes with the tooth. If left untreated, an abscessed tooth can cause serious oral health problems.
  • Swollen gingiva: Gum disease affects the attachment between gums and teeth. Gum disease begins with plaque


Rachel Ignotofsky is a New York Times Best Selling author and illustrator, who finds inspiration in both science and history. Her work turns dense and clunky information into fun and accessible illustrations for all audiences to enjoy.

(1): Ross et al., p. 485

Anatomy of a tooth

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