A dog’s teeth are a set of highly mineralized living tissues used by mammals to hold, tear, and chew. They are significant not only for eating, but also for protection. The teeth even play an important role in keeping the tongue safely moist inside the mouth. Although teeth have different shapes and functions, each still shares the same structural anatomy. There are two basic components the crown (located above the gums) and the root (located below the gums). A dog’s teeth may have more than one root such as the largest premolar identified as the carnassial tooth that has three roots. The innermost portion of a dog’s tooth is the root canal a naturally occurring space within a tooth that consists of the pulp chamber. This chamber consists of blood vessels and nerves including a small channel known as a lateral canal. Surrounding this chamber is the dentin that provides the structure for most of the tooth. The shiny, protective enamel covers the outer part of the crown, which is the visible portion of the tooth. The roots of the tooth are firmly held into the jawbone with the periodontal ligament. This strong sheath of tissue “glues” the tooth root to the surrounding bone known as the alveolar bone that forms a socket for the tooth. The gum tissue overlying the base of teeth is called the gingiva.


Pulp: The pulp is at the center, or core of the tooth, and consists of connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels that nourish the tooth. Most of the nerves and blood vessels to the tooth enter through the apex (bottom) of the root. Special cells in the pulp, called “odontoblasts” form dentin.

Dentin: The majority of the tooth is made up of dentin, which surrounds the pulp. Dentin is as hard as bone but softer than enamel. Dentin is a tissue that can detect touch, heat, and cold. Primary dentin is dentin that is formed before tooth eruption; secondary dentin is dentin that is continually formed throughout the life of the tooth. As the secondary dentin forms, the pulp chamber reduces in size. The dentin of the crown is encased in enamel and the dentin of the root is covered by cementum (see explanation below).

Enamel: Enamel is the hardest tissue in the mammalian body and is formed before tooth eruption. Just before the tooth erupts through the gums, the formation of enamel stops and is lost gradually over the life of the tooth. Although enamel is very hard, it is brittle, too, often subject to chipping.
The tissues that surround the teeth are called the “peridontium” and consist of the alveolar bone, periodontal ligaments, cementum, and gingiva.

Alveolar Bone: The alveolar bone forms the jaw and the sockets into which the roots of the teeth extend.

Periodontal Ligaments: This tough tissue helps to hold the tooth in the socket. It attaches to the cementum of the tooth and the alveolar bone.

Cementum: Cementum is hard, calcified tissue that covers the dentin of the root and is slowly formed throughout the life of the tooth. It assists in supporting the tooth in the jaw and in root repair.

Gingiva: The gingiva, also called the “gums,” is the soft tissue that covers the rest of the peridontium.

Lateral Canal: The lateral canal is a very small channel that connects the root pulp to the periodontal tissue through which small blood vessels run.


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