When you look closely at your teeth in the mirror, you may notice the different types of teeth and the distinctive shape and size of each. Your teeth have uniquely different functions whether to help with speech, or to cut and chew food for digestion. Your mouth also provides early indication of the overall health of your body too. A good set of pearly whites allow you to smile with confidence, and knowing more about your teeth will allow you take better care of them.
Humans in their lifetime have two sets of teeth: primary teeth and permanent teeth that appear at different stages of life but generally perform the same functions. By the age of three months the first of 20 primary teeth begin to grow and erupt and remain in place till about six years, when they gradually start to fall out to be replaced by permanent teeth. Adults have about 32 permanent teeth that begin to grow between six to twelve years of age. Permanent teeth are bigger, durable and take longer to break through the gums.
There are four different types of teeth in the mouth, performing different functions.
- Incisors are the first teeth to appear in babies, which include the middlemost top four and bottom four center teeth in your mouth. The middle two teeth are central incisors, and the two to each side are known as lateral incisors. Incisors are flat and can be sharp, for easily cutting into food to tear them into small pieces. They are first bite teeth, when eating foods like apples, sandwiches, and they also move the food inwards to your mouth and towards other teeth for chewing.
- Canines are the pointed sharp teeth situated to the left and right of the incisors, used to tear food apart. There are two canines on the top and a couple at the bottom located next to incisors at the corner of the mouth, with deeper roots than all teeth. They are referred to as “fang” or “eye” teeth because they are located at the corner, near the start of the curve that leads to the back teeth.
- Premolars, are the eight bicuspids in the mouth, with four teeth on the sides of the mouths, specifically two on each side of the mouth, behind the canines. Premolars are larger than others, with sharp pointed teeth for piercing food and a flat surface helpful for crushing and chewing food into small particles. Premolars are a combination between a canine and molar.
- Molars are the last teeth situated furthest back of the mouth and are the largest in size with a flat surface. They add up to a total of twelve teeth, with three molars on the top and bottom of the mouth. The flat surface enables chewing and grinding of food and the last molar is a wisdom tooth, which required extraction prior to it erupting into the oral cavity.
Each of the teeth is required for eating and digesting the food correctly. The incisors and canines help tear the food into smaller bits. When you eat your food, the tongue pushes it back in the mouth towards the molars so they can chew down the foods into small, easy to swallow bites for easy digestion.
A full set of well maintained teeth improves the appearance and structure of the face by supporting the cheeks. When there are missing teeth the facial muscles will sag, creating a sunken appearance.
Without teeth, speaking may also prove to be a challenge, as the tongue in conjunction with the teeth helps with pronunciation of certain sounds and words.