You’ve probably noticed that your teeth aren’t all the same shape, but do you know the reason? Humans have four different types of teeth, and they each serve specific purposes, both in helping us chew and in giving us our beautiful smiles! The reason we need so many different types of teeth is that we are omnivores, which means we eat both plants and meat. We need teeth that can handle all of our favorite foods!
At the very front of the mouth, the top four and bottom four teeth are the incisors. The middle ones are central incisors, while the ones on the sides are lateral incisors. Incisors are built for slicing. When we take a bite out of an apple, for instance, our incisors shear off a tasty chunk of fruit, but they aren’t the teeth we actually chew with.
Next to the lateral incisors are our canines, which are the sharpest and longest teeth in our mouths. This enables them to grip and tear food, particularly meat. Unlike incisors, we only have four canines. Their long roots and their position at the “corners” of our dental arches also make them some of the most important teeth in our smiles, because they provide much of the shape. Another name for canine teeth is eyeteeth. That might seem weird, but it’s because these teeth are directly beneath our eyes!
After the canines, we have our premolars. You can think of premolars as hybrids between canines and molars. They have sharp outer edges, but they also have flat chewing surfaces, which means they can help the canines with tearing food and the molars with grinding it up. We don’t have any premolars as children; our eight adult premolars are actually the teeth that replace our baby molars!
Finally, we have the molars. Molars are our biggest teeth, with multiple roots and large, flat chewing surfaces. We have eight baby molars and up to twelve adult molars, depending on whether or not we have and keep our wisdom teeth. Molars are the teeth that do most of the chewing, because those flat surfaces are perfect for grinding and crushing food until it’s ready to be swallowed.
Our teeth are the way they are because we’re omnivores. Herbivores (plant-eaters) and carnivores (meat-eaters) have very different teeth. Herbivores typically have chisel-like incisors and large, flat premolars and molars for chewing plants, while their canines are small, if they have them at all. Carnivores tend to have much bigger canine teeth than we do, but their incisors are much smaller, and while they still have premolars and molars, they are often serrated like knives, built for shredding rather than grinding.
What do all four types of your teeth have in common? They need regular attention from a dentist! Keep bringing those incisors, canines, premolars, and molars to see us every six months so that we can make sure they’re all staying healthy. In the meantime, you can do your part by remembering to brush twice a day, floss daily, and cut back on sugary treats!
Now that you’re an expert about the different types of teeth, test your knowledge with our Different Types of Teeth quiz!
Dental health for kids is just as important as it is for adults. And it’s never too early to learn more about your kid’s teeth and teach them good dental habits! We’ve assembled some important questions parents ask us at Kid’s Dentistree and provided some straightforward answers to help you be the best parent you can be!
If you need more information about your child’s baby teeth, feel free to give any one of our offices a call!
The primary, or “baby” teeth play a crucial role in dental development. They allow your child to chew properly, smile confidently, aid in speech development and save space for the permanent teeth, guiding them into the correct position.
Your child’s teeth actually start forming before birth. As early as 4 months, the baby teeth push through the gums – the lower front teeth are first, followed by the upper front teeth. Most babies’ first tooth comes in around 6 months old. The process can be uncomfortable (see teething) but should not make your baby sick.
Check out this useful tooth eruption chart to see when you should expect baby teeth to come in and when your children will likely lose them to make room for permanent teeth:
It is important to take care of your child’s gums even before their child’s first tooth erupts. Wipe the gums down with an infant, soft toothbrush or soft cloth, and water.
Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or totally prevented by not allowing sleeping infants to breast or bottle feed. Infants that need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle only.
A bottle containing anything other than water and left in an infant’s mouth while sleeping can cause decay. This includes breast milk, regular milk, formula, fruit juice, unsweetened fruit juice, soda, or even watered down juices.
Teething is the term commonly used to describe with your child’s teeth are erupting through the gum line. Normally, the first tooth erupts between ages 6 to 12 months. Gums may be sore, tender and sometimes irritable until the age of 3.
If your baby is experiencing pain from teething, there are several home remedies to try. Applying something cold, like an ice cube, to help numb the gums is very effective and soothing for teething pain. Some parents even freeze weak chamomile tea in ice cube form to give their babies. The chamomile is naturally calming and relaxes nerves. For children over the age of 2, you can use clove essential oil but you’ll want to consult your dentist and family physician just to be safe.
“First visit by first birthday” sums it up. Your child should visit a pediatric dentist when the first tooth comes in, usually between six and twelve months of age.
Please don’t use a doorknob and string. Encourage your child to gently wiggle a loose tooth after they have washed their hands. The tooth may be rotated or twisted with the fingers to remove it from the gum tissues.
Clean the area by brushing or rinsing with warm salt water. Use dental floss to remove any food or debris that may be present.
After your child’s second tooth comes in, floss between the teeth and around the base of the tooth where it meets the gum line.
Remember: If you have additional questions, please feel free to give any one of our offices a call!
Toothaches are common for young children. But as parents, we worry anytime our child is in pain. A child’s toothache can have many causes—tooth decay, plaque buildup, incoming teeth, cavities, broken teeth or food trapped between teeth—and sometimes what feels like a toothache might be just pain caused by something else entirely! So what do you do when your child has a toothache? Follow our 6 easy steps to identify the problem, help ease your child’s pain and get them the treatment they need.
The first thing you want to do is try to find the cause of your child’s toothache. If they are old enough, ask them to point at or describe the pain. If they are younger, look for swelling, redness of gums and cheek, tooth discoloration or broken teeth. If you find a tooth that is loose, discolored or broken, you’ve likely found the cause.
Next you want to help your child remove any food particles that may be trapped between their teeth. Remember to be gentle and careful while flossing, because your child’s gums might be sensitive. If your child struggles with flossing or has braces, consider purchasing a Waterpik Water Flosser for Kids to make it easier.
Mix about a teaspoon of table salt into a small cup of warm water. Have your child rinse with the solution for about 30 seconds and spit. This will kill bacteria in or around the affected area and encourage faster healing.
Apply a cold compress to your child’s outer cheek near the painful or swollen area. If you do not have a store-bought compress, you can make one by wrapping ice in a small towel or cloth. Try icing for 15 minutes and taking another 15 minutes off.
If pain continues, your child can take anti-inflammatory medication like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Remember to make sure that any medicine you give your children is safe for them: Read the Drug Facts label every time, look for the active ingredient and give the right amount.
Under no circumstance should you rub aspirin or any painkiller on your child’s gums – it is very acidic and can cause burns. If you need a topical treatment, a home remedy that others have suggested is clove oil – an antimicrobial, anti-fungal essential oil that was used as far back as Ancient Greece. Gently dab clove oil with a cotton swab to the affected area around the tooth for temporary pain relief.
Flossing, rinsing, icing and medicating are of probably not permanent solutions to the problem. If your child’s toothache is caused by a cavity, they’ll need to see a dentist for a filling, root canal or possibly an extraction. If your child is experiencing extreme pain, fatigue or fever, you’ll want to call your pediatrician immediately.
Children are at a greater risk for dental infections than adults. If your child’s toothache is not going away—especially if the toothache persists for over 24 hours—you should call your dentist to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Even if your child’s pain goes away, there is still a chance they have a cavity which can develop into a painful abscess. If you have any doubts, please call us or schedule an appointment online.
Kid's Dentistree is a part of Mortenson Dental Partners.
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