4 Types of Teeth and Why They Are Important

Knowing the anatomy of your mouth and teeth is a crucial part of oral hygiene. If we are aware of what is going on inside our mouths, it is easier to indicate when something is out of the ordinary. The first step is to recognize the function of each type of tooth you have.



The very front eight teeth, four on the top and four on the bottom, are called incisors. Usually they are the first teeth to develop as an infant and the first to fall out to be replaced by adult teeth. Their primary function is for biting into food because they have sharp thin surfaces on the bottom. Those who choose dental bonding or veneers usually focus on the incisors to be replaced, as most people take note of a smile upon first impressions. To be more technical, the very middle two teeth are called central incisors and the outer two teeth are called lateral incisors.



Canines are the two teeth just outside the line of the four incisors on the top and bottom. They are known for their sharp edges, which are technically called “cusps.” These teeth are known best for their strength and thickness. We use them to grasp and tear apart food. Some consider canines to be the “cornerstone” of teeth. Both canine and incisor teeth allow us to speak correctly. Without them, we could not press our tongue against anything to make a “th” sound.



The next two teeth on either side of the canines on top and bottom are the premolars. Also known as the “transitional” teeth, premolars function as both canines and molars by helping tear the food as well as grinding it up. Their technical terms on each side are “first premolar” and “second premolar.” Unlike canines, premolars have two sharp edges or “cusps.” The first premolar usually has two equal sized cusps but the second usually has a longer one on the inside and a shorter one facing the cheek.



The molars consists of the four back teeth on both sides of the mouth, top and bottom. Their primary function is to grind and chew food while allowing saliva to mix as the last step to swallowing. Cosmetically, molars function as a support system for cheeks preventing them from sinking into our mouths.


Having the knowledge of the role each tooth plays in your mouth, will help give you a better sense of when something is not right and if you need to see a dentist. If you are in need of dental care or assistance, contact Greenspoint Dental in the Houston, Texas area for an appointment.