Unless they’ve caused you pain, you probably haven’t thought much about your individual teeth since they grew in one by one when you were a child. Even when they do cause problems, most of us don’t consider the difference between an incisor and a molar—teeth are teeth, right? Actually, that’s not true. We have different types of teeth, and each plays a very specific and important role. Your pearly whites do more than just chew your food: They protect the oral cavity, aid in digestion and even help you speak. Each type of tooth has its own responsibility in these actions, and all work together to make the process function properly.
Let’s start from the middle of your mouth. The first teeth we’ll talk about are the incisors, the four front teeth on the top and on the bottom. They have thin, sharp edges that help you bite into your food. The incisors are usually the first baby teeth to erupt, and the first to be lost in childhood. (Think “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.”)
Next are the four long-rooted canines—two on the top, two on the bottom. The canines, whose job is to rip and tear food, are the sharpest, strongest teeth in your mouth. Right behind the canines on the top and bottom are two premolars (also referred to as bicuspids) on each side of the mouth that work with the canines to tear food and the molars to crush food. Both the premolars and the canines have “cusps” (one cusp for canines, two to three for premolars), pointed edges that help hold food.
In the rear are two sets of top and bottom molars on each side, with four to five cusps and broad, flat chewing surfaces that help grind food into pieces small enough to swallow. Most people also develop a third set of molars, known as wisdom teeth, in early adulthood. The third molars don’t serve much purpose, are sometimes impacted or may cause overcrowding in the mouth, so dentists frequently recommend their removal.
Each type of tooth plays an essential role. See us regularly to ensure that all the teeth in your mouth—incisors, canines, premolars and molars—stay free of decay and damage.