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Featuring consumer information from Columbia School of Dental & Oral Surgery
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Oral Health Made Simple: Your Prescription For Knowledge
 PREVENT PROBLEMS
Small BoxAll About Cavities
Small BoxBrushing and Flossing
Small BoxFluoride
Small BoxMouth-Healthy Eating
Small BoxSealants
Small BoxTaking Care of Your Teeth
Small BoxTobacco
Small BoxYour Dental Visit
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 CONDITIONS
Small BoxBad Breath
Small BoxCavities
Small BoxCold Sores
Small BoxDry Mouth
Small BoxImpacted Tooth
Small BoxSensitive Teeth
Small BoxTMJ
Small BoxTooth Discoloration
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 TREATMENTS
Small BoxCrowns
Small BoxDentures
Small BoxFillings: The Basics
Small BoxGum Surgery
Small BoxImplants
Small BoxRoot Canal Treatment
Small BoxScaling and Root Planing
Small BoxWhitening
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 GENERAL TOPICS
Small BoxControlling Pain
Small BoxCosmetic Dentistry
Small BoxEmergencies
Small BoxFill, Repair, Replace
Small BoxKids And Teens
Small BoxOral Health and Your Body
Small BoxOrthodontics
Small BoxPeriodontics
Small BoxSeniors
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Step 1 Prevent ProblemsSimplestepsPrevent Problems
Step 2 Understand ConditionsSimplestepsUnderstand Conditions
Step 3 Explore TreatmentsSimplestepsExplore Treatments

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Types Of Teeth
Illustration created by Simple Steps designer Michael Becker

Types of Teeth
The shapes of animals' teeth give clues to the type of diets they eat. Meat eaters have sharp, pointed teeth to pierce and tear. Plant eaters have broad, flat teeth to crush and grind. Humans are no exception. As a species, we eat both meats and plants, so we have different types of teeth to handle both types of food.
  • Incisors — The four front teeth in both your upper and lower jaws (a total of eight) are incisors. The pair of teeth at the center of your mouth, top and bottom, are called the central incisors. And the teeth on each side of the central incisors are the lateral incisors. All the incisors are broad, flat teeth with a narrow edge good for cutting or snipping off pieces of food. They have a single root.


  • Canines — On both sides of your upper and lower incisors are the canines (a total of four). Sometimes called eyeteeth or cuspids, canines are the longest and most stable teeth in the mouth. They are thick and come to a single sharp point. They are ideal for ripping and tearing at foods that might be tough, such as meat, and for piercing and holding. They have a long single root.


  • Premolars — Next to each canine are two premolars (a total of eight). Also called bicuspids, premolars are a cross between canines and molars. They have sharp points for piercing and ripping, but they also have a broader surface for chewing and grinding. On the upper jaw, the first premolars (directly next to the canines) have two roots, and the second premolars have one root. On the lower jaw, all premolars have one root.


  • Molars — The last three upper and lower teeth on both sides of your mouth are the molars (a total of 12). They are numbered first, second or third molars depending on their location. The first molars, also called 6-year molars, are those closest to the front of the mouth, directly next to the second premolars. The third molars are also called the wisdom teeth. They are the last teeth, farthest back in the mouth on all sides. In between are the second molars, also called 12-year molars. Molars are large teeth with broad surfaces designed for crushing, grinding and chewing food. On the upper jaw, the molars have three well-separated roots. On the lower jaw, the molars have two roots.
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  See Also . . .
Parts of Your Teeth and Gums
Surfaces of the Tooth
Tooth Numbering
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