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Sometimes when our dental hygienists and dentists start talking about the “second premolar” or “your canines,” it can be easy to feel out of the loop. After all, you (probably) didn’t go to dental school, did you? Well, for those of you who want to get in on the secret language of dentists, we’ve got the cheat sheet for you to understand your teeth.

The Four Types of Teeth

The main usage of our teeth is for us to break apart food before we actually eat it. Most teeth exist with a particular purpose or food type—giving way to its structure. Humans, unlike some animals, eat a vast variety of different types of food and thus have four different types of teeth to aid in their ability to eat a diverse array of foods.

  • Incisors — If you look in the mirror and look at your teeth, the four center teeth on top and the four center teeth on bottom comprise your incisors. The “two front teeth” being the most prominent. These squarish, flat teeth are used to do the initial “cutting” of food before work is done by the teeth in the back.
  • Canines — Immediately adjacent to your incisors are your canines. They are the teeth with the (comparatively) prominent point at the end. Unlike many animals, humans have relatively small and insignificant canines. If you have a pet cat or dog, you can see their canines are much longer and sharper than a human’s typically are. Canines are typically used to “tear and shred” your food, such as meat. Humans have four canines, one in each corner adjacent to the incisors.
  • Premolars — After your canines come the premolars (sometimes called “bicuspids” because they have two cusps), these and the molars serve as a “middle ground” between the incisors and canines in “pointiness.” They are slightly smaller than the molars (which have four or five cusps) and are used for chewing and grinding foods. Humans have eight molars, two in each quadrant of the mouth.
  • Molars — Way in the very back of each corner of your mouth are your molars. Similar to premolars, molars have four or five cusps but perform a similar function to premolars: grinding and chewing food. This is usually the last stop for food before it gets swallowed. Humans have a variable amount between eight and twelve molars, because wisdom teeth count as molars (and are sometimes called “third molars”).

And there you have it, a brief codex for you on the many (well, four) types of teeth! Now you’re ready to impress your dentist!

For further questions about teeth, or to schedule an appointment, contact the Lakeway Center for Cosmetic & Family Dentistry today.