Most of us take our teeth for granted until something goes wrong. Our teeth help us chew and digest food, play an important role in speech, and impact our health overall. And by brushing up on your dental health knowledge, you’ll be taking the first step toward giving your teeth the attention they deserve.

Humans have two sets of teeth, primary (baby) teeth and then permanent teeth, which develop in stages. Although the timing is different, the development of each of these sets of teeth is similar.

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A tooth is divided into two basic parts: the crown, which is the visible, white part of the tooth, and the root, which you can’t see. The root extends below the gum line and anchors the tooth into the bone. Your teeth contain four kinds of tissue and each does a different job.

There are 20 primary teeth. Lower incisors are usually the first teeth to erupt at about six months. All 20 primary teeth are usually in the mouth by about two years. There are 32 permanent teeth including four wisdom teeth. The first permanent teeth to erupt (usually at about six years) are the four first permanent molars behind the last primary teeth. Incisors erupt between seven and eight years.

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The Different Types of Teeth

Teeth help you chew your food, making it easier to digest. Each type of tooth has a slightly different shape and performs a different job. Types of teeth include:

  • Incisors: The incisors at the front of the mouth have a sharp biting surface and are used for cutting or shearing food into small chewable pieces. There are eight incisors in both primary and permanent dentitions.
  • Canines: Canines are situated at the ‘corners’ of the dental arches. They have a sharp, pointed biting surface. Their function is to grip and tear food. There are four canine teeth in both primary and permanent dentitions.
  • Premolars: The premolars, unlike the incisors and canines, have a flat biting surface. Their function is to tear and crush food. They are unique to the permanent dentition, which has eight premolars.
  • Molars: The molars are the largest of the teeth. They have a large flat biting surface. The function of the molars is to chew, crush and grind food. There are eight molars in the primary dentition and twelve in the permanent dentition.
  • Third Molars: Third molars are commonly known as wisdom teeth. These are the last teeth to develop and do not typically erupt until age 18 to 20. These molars may cause crowding and need to be removed.


Your mouth is important. Don’t take your teeth or oral health for granted. For good dental health, brush and floss your teeth regularly, don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet, and see your dentist regularly for dental cleanings and checkups. A healthy mouth makes for a healthy body and a lovely smile.