From chewing our food to helping us smile and communicate, our teeth perform a vital role in our quality of life. However, aside from those studying to become a dentist or dental hygienist, few people think about the different types of teeth and the roles they play in our lives. If you’ve ever been curious about the factors that make up your bite, read on.
It is generally accepted that we have three different types of teeth: Incisors, canines, and molars. Molars can be divided into two categories, premolars and third molars. That leaves us with five different types of teeth to explore.
Incisors are often the first adult teeth that grow in after our primary (baby) teeth. These are the large, flat, square teeth that make up the majority of our smiles. There are eight incisors in the mouth: Four in the top-center, and four in the bottom-center. The primary purpose of incisors is to bite and cut into our food. Since they are situated in the front of the teeth, they are often referred to as the “anterior” teeth.
Cuspids, also known as canines, are one of the few features humans have left over from our more predatory past. Similar to the fangs of a wolf or tiger, canines are used to do exactly what they look like they are meant to do–tear into food and rip it apart. Their position on either side of the mouth also helps guide the mouth and other teeth into the best biting position. Permanent canines usually come in at around the ten-year mark, with the bottom cuspids arriving just before the upper cuspids.
Premolar teeth are transitional teeth that lie between the canines and the molars. As such, they possess both the tearing function of the canines, and the grinding function of the molars. The premolars end in two “points” which are called “cusps,” and we have two sets per quadrant. Primitive man had sixteen premolars, four per quadrant, but over time they have been lost.
Molars are the large back teeth which help us chew. The word “molar” derives from the Latin “molaris dens,” meaning “millstone tooth”. Adult humans have 12 molars, or three per quadrant. The third, rearmost molar in each group is called the wisdom tooth. It is the last tooth to appear, breaking through the front of the gum at around the age of 20, although this varies from individual to individual. In some cases, the wisdom teeth do not emerge at all, though this does not always mean it must be removed.
Hudson Family Dentistry is a general dentist in Hudson NC, specializing in crowns, tooth whitening, root canals, and tooth implants. To request an appointment, click here.