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 overall health in a big way. The best way to give them the attention they deserve is by brushing up on your dental health knowledge.
How much do you know about your pearly whites?
Humans have two sets of teeth, primary (or baby) teeth, and then a permanent set– which develop in stages. Although the timing is different, their development is similar.
Tooth development begins long before your first tooth becomes visible. For example, a baby’s first tooth appears at around six months of age, but those teeth actually begin developing during the early second trimester of pregnancy.
The crown forms first, while the roots continue to develop even after the tooth has erupted through your gums.
Your primary set is in place by age 3, and will remain there until around 6 years of age when they begin to fall out to make way for your permanent set.
Your adult set will start to grow in between 6 and 12 years of age. Each tooth has different parts, with each part serving a different purpose.
Your tooth enamel is the hard, white, outer part of your tooth that’s mostly made of calcium phosphate. It’s actually the strongest substance in your body.
The dentin is the layer of your teeth that underlines your enamel. It’s made of living cells, which secrete a hard mineral substance.
The softer, living inner structure is called the pulp. Blood vessels and nerves run through the pulp of your teeth.
The cementum is a layer of connective tissue that binds the roots of your teeth firmly to your gums and jawbone.
Finally, the tissue that helps to hold your teeth tightly against your jaw is called the periodontal ligament.
The crown of each tooth projects into your mouth, while the roots descend below your gum line– into your jaw.
Incisors are the eight teeth in the front and center of your mouth. You have four on the top and four on the bottom, and you use them to take bites of your food. Incisors are usually the first to erupt, when you’re about 6 months old for your first set of teeth, and anywhere from 6-8 years old for your adult set.
Your four canines are the next to develop. These are your sharpest teeth and are used for ripping and tearing your food apart. Primary canines generally appear between 16 and 20 months of age, with the upper canines coming in just ahead of the lower canines. For your permanent teeth, the order is reversed. Your lower canines come in around the age of 9, with the uppers arriving when you’re about 11 or 12 years old.
We use our premolars for chewing and grinding food. You have four premolars on each side of your mouth– two on the upper, and two on the lower jaw. The first premolars appear when you’re around 10 years old, and the second premolars come in about a year later.
Primary molars are also used for chewing and grinding food. These appear between 12 and 15 months of age, and are eventually replaced by the first and second permanent premolars. The permanent molars do not replace, but come in behind the primary teeth. The first molars erupt around the age of 6 (before the primary molars fall out), while the second molars come in between the ages of 11-13.
Third Molars (Wisdom Teeth)
Third molars are more commonly known as wisdom teeth. These are the last to develop and don’t typically erupt until your late teens or early twenties. Some people never even get third molars at all, and for those who do– they can cause problems and may need to be removed.
Every Six Months
Now that you know everything there is to know about your pearly whites, make sure you’re always keeping them in tip-top shape. If it’s been over 6 months since your last cleaning/exam request an appointment today.
Dr. Randall Burba is an American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry accredited dentist, practicing in Salem, Massachusetts. He considers himself an artist–with teeth and beyond! He often paints, draws and has a passion for woodworking.