The 4 Types of Teeth and Why Do We Have Them

Teeth are an essential part of human anatomy. They help us bite, chew, speak clearly and smile. We usually take them for granted, never realising how important they are for us until we have a dental problem.

This is why it’s essential to take care of your teeth with regular dental checkups, good oral hygiene and care. Because once you lose even a single one, it won’t grow back.

If you’ve ever wondered about the different types of teeth in your mouth and their functions, you’re at the right place. In this blog, we’ll educate you about the 4 types of teeth, their functions, and how you can protect and maintain them to keep them looking and functioning their best. 

What are the types of teeth?

There are four types of teeth in your mouth, each providing vital functions to help you bite and chew food for proper digestion. Every adult generally has 32 permanent teeth, which begin to erupt between the ages of six to seven. The first molars erupt behind the milk teeth and can start to grow even before any milk teeth are lost. By the age of 21, an adult has a full set of 32 teeth, 16 on the upper jaw and 16 on the lower jaw.

Human teeth are made of minerals, calcium and collagen. They have both soft and hard tissue parts that include:

  • Enamel

Enamel is the outer layer of the tooth, and the strongest substance in the human body, being harder than even bone. Enamel is made of minerals and protects the tooth’s inner layer from harmful bacteria that can cause tooth decay. You should take care of your tooth enamel as it can get worn down and become brittle, weakening your teeth and exposing them to the risk of decay, cavities and infection. . Avoid over-brushing as it can wear down tooth enamel, and use strong fluoride toothpaste.

  • Dentin

Dentin is a calcified hard tissue that lies beneath the enamel and has a yellowish colour.  It’s not as hard as the enamel, thus being more prone to wear and tear. This is why teeth with weakened enamel are at more risk of tooth decay.

  • Cementum

Cementum is the outermost layer of the tooth root and is composed of a layer of mineralised tissue. It helps to anchor the tooth in the jaw and protect the underlying root. Cementum is located along the tooth’s root, supporting the tooth’s place in the jawbone. Its loss causes tooth sensitivity, gum recession and enamel loss.

  • Pulp

The pulp is the innermost layer of the tooth and contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. This is the living part of the tooth that helps it regenerate and heal. It also provides a pathway for nutrients to enter the tooth and help keep it healthy. The pulp may need to be removed with a root canal if the decay and infection have spread. 

The 4 Types of Teeth: Their Roles and Importance

The teeth can be divided into 4 categories:

8 Incisors

There are 8 incisors in your mouth, 4 at the bottom and 4 at the top. They are located at the front of your mouth and have a slightly sharper edge to help you bite into food. They are typically the first milk tooth to erupt at about 6 months, the permanent ones appearing between the ages of 6 and 8.

Incisors have slightly sharper edges to help make biting the food easier and are usually used when taking the first bite. They are also the most prominent teeth as they are located at the front, having a major impact on how your smile looks

4 Canines

There are 4 canines in your mouth, 2 each in the upper and lower jaw. They are located next to the incisors and have a pointy edge to help you tear into food. Canines are the strongest of all your teeth, being resistant to pressure and playing a vital role in teeth functionality. They regulate the bite force when your upper and lower jaw comes into contact, support the lips and help the rest of your teeth with chewing. 

8 Premolars

Premolars are located between the molars and the canines. They have a round shape with a flat surface to assist with tearing, mashing and grinding the food into smaller pieces to help you chew. Children do not have premolars, only primary molars that usually fall out between the age of 10 to 11, replacing them with permanent molars. 

12 Molars (including 4 wisdom teeth)

There are 12 molars in your mouth, 6 in the upper jaw and 6 in the bottom. Their main function is to break and mash the food to help chew and break it down for proper digestion. Molars are flatter and more squarish in shape. The 4 wisdom teeth are also included in the molars and are generally the last to erupt in the late teens to early twenties.

Why do we have them?

Each type of tooth plays an important role, their structure and shape providing different functions to help us chew and bite food. For example, you can tell the type of food an animal eats based on the structure of their jaw with a carnivore having sharper teeth and a medium to short jaw and herbivores having flatter teeth with short jaws.

Similarly, the human teeth are shaped and positioned to eat both hard and soft foods with the canines helping to tear into food and the molars breaking it down into smaller pieces and chewing. What may not be widely known is that chewing also has a role in cleaning teeth. When we chew, it creates more saliva in the mouth that washes away the leftover food particles, neutralising bacteria and preventing plaque formation.

This does not mean that daily brushing and flossing are not needed. If teeth are not brushed and oral hygiene is not maintained, bacteria can grow and infect the mouth, leading to tooth decay and gum diseases.  It is also important to take care of the teeth by eating a variety of healthy food, reducing the amount of processed food, and general teeth maintenance.

If the gum infection doesn’t get treated, then it can lead to a major complication in the long run, such as spreading to the internal tooth tissue and supporting structures, weakening them. The only way to protect your teeth and gums is by practising good oral care and hygiene habits, brushing your teeth twice daily for 2 minutes, having regular dental checkups and getting your teeth professionally cleaned at least once a year. 

Quality Dental Care at Whitehorse Dental

Keep your teeth and gums healthy and your smile looking beautiful with our complete range of dental services. Whether you need regular checkups and cleaning or treatment for specific dental problems such as wisdom tooth extractions or dental implants, our friendly dentists are here to help. Give us a call today.