The Different Tooth Types & Their Functions – Learn With Family & General Dentist in Portland, OR
Do you know how many types of teeth you have? A full set of human adult teeth has 32 teeth total, and is made up of 4 different types of teeth. Each tooth type has their own unique function and purpose, and together they work to allow us to eat and digest food efficiently.
The 4 Different Types of Teeth:
Incisors : These are the four front and center teeth on both our upper and lower jaws, for a total of 8 incisors. We have two central incisors (the very middle two teeth) and two lateral incisors (the teeth on either side of the central incisors) on each jaw.
Canines : Also called cuspids (meaning a tooth with a single point), canine teeth are located on either side of the incisors in both our upper and lower jaws, for a total of 4 canine teeth.
Premolars : Also called bicuspids, these teeth are located next to the canine teeth. We have two premolars (called first and second premolars) on each side of our canines on each jaw, for a total of 8 premolars. Unlike incisors and canines, which have a single sharp edge or point, premolars have a series of points (usually two, hence the name bicuspid).
Molars : Like premolars, our molars have a series of points - typically 4 or 5. Located behind the premolars, we have 6 molars on each upper and lower jaws, for a total of 12 molars altogether. In order of location, they are called our first, second and third molars. Third molars are commonly called wisdom teeth – they are our last teeth to erupt, and are usually removed for oral health reasons. Not including wisdom teeth, a set of adult teeth has 8 molars, and 28 permanent teeth rather than 32.
Teeth Shapes and How They Help Us Eat
Our teeth play very important roles when it comes to eating and digestion! Each tooth’s unique shape lends to their specific, food-processing functions.
Incisors have a wide, thin, chisel-shaped cutting edge, which allows us to grasp, cut and tear food.
Canine teeth come to a single point, which helps us grasp and tear food.
Premolars and their multiple points help us grasp and crush food.
And molars, with their sturdy base and 4-5 blunt points, are used exclusively for crushing and grinding food.
Our teeth work together to help us efficiently grasp, cut, tear, crush and grind up food. Digestion begins in the mouth, and chewing food so that it is manageable to swallow is the very first step in converting food into molecules that your body can use as essential energy and nutrients. The act of chewing also allows saliva to mix with food, which aids in breaking down starches and fats as well as softens food, making it easier to swallow. If your teeth are not healthy, you cannot chew and break down food as effectively, and digestion and overall health often suffers as a result.
Our teeth are crucial in enabling us to eat and enjoy food, to speak and sing, to smile and laugh. We only have one set of permanent teeth, so take good care of them! Restorative dental treatments like fillings, crowns and implants can repair and replace damaged or missing teeth. However, it is always best to keep your natural teeth if you can, so remember to brush and floss the teeth you want to keep!
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