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4 types of teeth

Before your next visit to the dentist, it's important to understand the make up of your teeth. The primary function of human teeth is to help digest food by chewing it and breaking it down. Teeth are also important for ensuring proper speech, and they can be indicators of health problems elsewhere in the body.

A person’s 20 primary or baby teeth are eventually replaced by permanent, adult teeth. The average adult has 32 permanent teeth. According to the American Dental Association, each tooth is made up of several parts: pulp, cementum, dentin and enamel.

The four types of teeth, their functions, and their development are as follows:

Incisors are a person’s eight front teeth, with four on top and four on the bottom. The two in the middle are the central incisors, while the two on either side of the central incisors are called lateral incisors. These primary teeth are later replaced by the same number of adult incisors.

Their main function is to bite food. Babies develop their incisors at around six months old. After the primary incisors fall out between ages six and eight, the permanent incisors emerge.

Canines are the sharp teeth located outside the incisors. Children and adults have four canines, two on the top and two on the bottom, to help tear their food. Canines first appear when a child is around 16 to 20 months old. The permanent lower canines come in at around 9 years old, and upper canines erupt between 11 and 12 years old.

Premolars, also called bicuspids, can chew and tear food. They are somewhat flat with ridges on top, and there are four on each side. The premolars are fully developed by about 10 to 11 years of age.

Molars also chew and grind food, yet they are stronger than premolars and they work with the tongue to help swallow food. These 12 teeth are located in the back of the mouth, and they begin to appear in children at around 12 to 15 months old.

Then the permanent molars come in, first at around six years old, and the second molars emerge in children between 11 and 13 years old.

A fifth type of tooth that is somewhat rare in most people is the third molar, also referred to as a wisdom tooth. People develop third molars around age 18 or 20, if they develop them at all. Many people have them removed if they cause pain or overcrowding in the mouth. In case you need a tooth removed, consult a dentist to ensure success.

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