Most of us don’t realize the importance that teeth play in our lives, until something malfunctions. The obvious role of our teeth is that they help us cut our food for easy digestion. They also play an important role in our speech and appearance. The health of our teeth even affects the health of our overall body. (For instance, gum disease is related to heart disease.) In the past, we’ve talked about ways to prevent bad dental health and avoid social faux pas, like bad breath. Today, Dr. Goehring is blogging from Austin, TX to talk about the important function of our different types of teeth in our lives.
The Maturation of Teeth
As humans, we grow two different sets of teeth in our lifetime. Our primary, or baby teeth, and our permanent teeth. Both our baby and permanent teeth grow and develop in different stages. These are the brass tacks on how people develop their teeth:
- Teeth tend to break through in a mirror image formation. For instance, your top molar on your left side will erupt at the same time as your top molar on the right side.
- You develop teeth way before you can physically see them. A baby’s first tooth starts to develop as early as the second trimester, but it doesn’t actually appear until they’re 6 months old.
- The roots of your tooth continue to develop, even after your crown has formed.
- By the time a human is 3 years old, they have 20 primary teeth in place. Around the age of 6, they begin to fall out to make room for the permanent teeth.
- Permanent teeth start to erupt between the ages of 6 and 12 years old. The majority of adults have 32 permanent teeth.
- Permanent teeth are much larger, but take longer to grow than baby teeth.
Anatomy of a Tooth
A tooth is made of two parts: the crown and the root. The crown is the visible part of the tooth, and the root hold the crown in under the gums and anchors in the bone. Your teeth are made out of 4 different kinds of tissue that all serve different purposes.
- Enamel: You’ve probably heard about your enamel. Enamel protects your teeth, which is why you’re told you should protect your enamel. Enamel is the outer, visible layer of the tooth that’s made out of phosphorous and calcium.
- Dentin: The next tissue, under your enamel, is a layer called dentin. Dentin is calcified and looks like a bone. It’s not as hard as enamel, so it puts you at greater risk for tooth decay, if your enamel is already worn away.
- Cementum: Cementum is the last protective layer, before getting into the sensitive pulp. The cementum covers the root and helps cement it to the bone. This material is much softer than enamel and dentin. The best way to protect this area from tooth decay is by taking care of your gums by flossing regularly. Cementum is an unsightly yellow color and is usually covered by the gum. However, when someone suffers from gum disease, their gums shrink and pull away from the teeth, making your cementum vulnerable to plaque and bacteria.
- Pulp: The pulp is found in the center of your tooth and stores blood vessels, nerves, and other tissues that deliver nutrients to your teeth. The pulp is the sensitive part of your teeth. When the pulp becomes exposed, due to extensive tooth decay, the sufferer will feel intense pain.
Types of Teeth and Their Niches
Humans have 5 different kinds of permanent teeth. When it comes to using your teeth to eat, each tooth serves you differently.
- Incisors: Your incisors are the 4 teeth on the top and 4 teeth on the bottom that are in the center of your smile. These teeth are thin and sharp. Their sharp edges help you cut your food when taking bites. Incisors are the first group of teeth that you grow in your baby and adult teeth.
- Canines: The next set of teeth to come in are your canine teeth. These are the 4 teeth that you might recognize as the fangs on vampires. These are your sharpest teeth. Due to their sharp nature, they’re useful for shredding and ripping your food into pieces. In permanent teeth, you usually have lower canines around the age of 9, with upper canines coming in around between the age of 11-12 years old.
- Premolars: Premolars, also known in the dental community as bicuspids, usually appear in sets. There are 4 premolars total, two on the upper and two on the lower part of your jaw. The first premolars come in around the age of 10, and the second premolars erupt about a year later. Premolars play an important role in helping you chew and gnash food.
- Molars: Primary molars, known in the dental community as the deciduous molars, come in behind all of the other teeth. Your first set of molars grow out around the age of 6 years old, before your baby molars fall out. The second set of molars come in around the ages of 11-13. Molars play a pivotal role in your ability to eat. Molars are wide and flat, and help you crush and grind food, much like a mortar and pestle.
- Third molars. Your third molars are the last teeth to come in, you might know them by their colloquial term, “wisdom teeth.” These usually break through the gum line around the age of 18-20. Some people don’t have third molars at all. The majority of people who have third molars will get them taken out, since they cause overcrowding in the jawline.
All of your teeth work together to help you swallow and digest food correctly. They each have important functions when it comes to speech and eating correctly. Don’t take your dental health for granted, and protect what you have. Keep up with your dental health by brushing and flossing daily, eating a healthy diet, avoid smoking, and see your dentist regularly for checkups.
Restore of Missing Teeth
Oftentimes missing teeth leave gaps in your smile that harbor bad bacteria. Sometimes missing teeth can lead to more gum disease, tooth decay, and further your tooth loss. Restore your smile and get your mouth functioning at an optimal level. A brand new canine just might be the answer to digesting your food a little better.