There are 4 different kinds of permanent teeth. Why are some teeth thin, while others are thick with a biting surface that has peaks and grooves? The answer is the teeth look different from one another because they are designed to do different things!
The Incisors are the teeth in the very front. They’re the sharpest teeth. Incisors are shaped like tiny chisels with flat ends that are sharp. They are built to cut food (like sharp scissors), and they are also shaped to shovel the food inward.
The Cuspid or Canine teeth are the pointed teeth located beside the incisors. People have a total of four canine teeth, two on top and two on the bottom. They are also called the “eye” teeth. Unless they have been worn down by chewing and grinding, they are quite pointed. They have only one root, but it is the longest root of any of your teeth – which gives them added stability because they are meant for grasping and tearing food.
Premolar or bicuspid teeth are located just behind your canine teeth. There are 8 bicuspid teeth in total – 4 on the top, 4 on the bottom. They have a completely different shape than both the incisors and canines. Bicuspid teeth have a flatter chewing surface with ridges, – all of which makes them perfect for crushing and grinding food.
The Molars are the last teeth towards the back of your mouth. You have eight of these (not including your wisdom teeth which are also molars). There are normally four molars on the top arch and four on the bottom arch. The word molar means “millstone,” which makes sense as these teeth work similar to a millstone, grinding food. They are wider and stronger than premolars, and they have more ridges. Molars work closely with your tongue to help you swallow food. The tongue sweeps chewed food to the back of your mouth, where the molars grind it until it is mashed up and ready to be swallowed.
The next time you eat, pay attention to which teeth do which jobs. Having an apple? Incisors do a good job of biting into it. What about a carrot? Most people use their canines or premolars to bite a piece off, then use their molars to get the job done. Think about how hard it would be to completely chew a carrot with your front teeth! How about a slice of pizza or a piece of toast? Your canines will help you tear at the food, and then your premolars and molars will help you grind up and swallow the pizza or toast.
If you are missing some teeth, it will often “over stress” other teeth as they end up doing jobs they weren’t meant to do, and chewing is not evenly distributed. Join us for our next blog “Missing Teeth – Not Just a Cosmetic Issue!”