Types of Teeth
Your mouth houses four types of teeth: incisors, molars, premolars, and canines.
- Incisors: Your eight front teeth are the incisors, four upper teeth and four on the bottom. Incisors come in different shapes and sizes, but all are thinner than the surrounding teeth in every person’s mouth. This set of choppers is used primarily for biting food.
- Canines: The four sharp teeth on either side of the incisors are the canines. This quartet tears through food and are used for gripping.
- Premolars: The eight flatter and larger set of teeth also used for tearing and crushing food are the premolars. Four teeth are located on the upper jaw and four on the bottom, closer to the rear.
- Molars: The largest and flattest teeth of all are the molars. Found towards the very back of the mouth, most adults have 12 for chewing and grinding food. That number includes the third molars, or the wisdom teeth, which often need to be extracted due to infection, overcrowding or impaction.
Parts of Each Tooth
While there are four types of teeth, with a varying purpose, each tooth is constructed in the same way. In addition, each part has an important function.
All teeth are made up of a crown and a root. The crown is the visible white surface, and the root is the anchor below the gum line. There are also four tissue types contained in each tooth:
- Enamel: The hard, outer coating that covers the crown and protects the inner tooth layers. This tough shell is harder than bone, but it is not impenetrable. It can be chipped, cracked, damaged or broken down by mouth acids, poor oral hygiene, trauma and aggressive tooth brushing.
- Dentin: Just beneath the enamel is a yellowy substance that makes up most of the tooth structure. The dentin is the calcified layer underneath the enamel and outside of the pulp. It appears very similar to bone but is not as strong. This inner layer is less dense than enamel and more susceptible to decay if the outer cover gets damages.
- Cementum: Softer than tooth dentin and enamel, cementum hugs the root and helps secure it to the jawbone. To protect this soft, vulnerable tissue from decay and disease, you need to take care of your gums. Poor oral hygiene and inadequate dental care may result in shrunken gums that expose cementum to disease-causing bacteria and plaque.
- Pulp: Located in the core of each tooth the pulp houses blood vessels, nerves, and other soft tissues that deliver important signals and nutrients to your teeth.
Healthy teeth are important, so don’t take your dental health for granted. Brush your teeth a minimum of two times a day and floss once a day, eat a healthy, balanced diet, avoid smoking, and continue to see your dentist regularly for routine exams and professional cleanings.