Many people are familiar with the dental term bicuspid which literally means two points. A cuspid on the other hand is a tooth with just a single point and these teeth, more commonly known as canines, will be the topic of discussion in the latest installment from our dental blog.
Humans generally have 4 canine teeth in their mouths: Two on the top, and two on the bottom. These teeth often resemble fangs, with their narrow pointed shape. In our animal friends the shape and size of these canine fangs can be significantly larger, yet serve the same purpose as they do for humans.
After an initial bite, much ripping and tearing must be completed before food can be swallowed. Just as molars, with their flat faces, are designed to grind – canine teeth, with their sharp narrow points, are designed to rip and tear. Tearing food into smaller chunks, to then be passed along to other teeth is an important part of our digestive process. Should someone ever swallow something that hasn’t been properly chewed, they could be risking throat, stomach, or other digestive problems.
Canines have also been called “eye teeth” after their placement in the mouth and its correspondence with eye location. These “eye teeth” tend to erupt after 9-10 years of dental development. The top set is also typically larger and longer than the pair on bottom.
Without canines, humans would rely too heavily on their front teeth to tear food, preparing it to then be ground by the molars. Canines provide a much-needed in-between step, perfectly designed for our digestive process.