8894 Stanford Blvd Suite 200 Columbia, MD 21045-5162

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Know Your Teeth

Our teeth: They help us eat our meals. They determine the shape of your mouth and consequently your entire face. They’re the smile that helps you make first impressions on people. Yet many of us don’t know which tooth is a bicuspid and which is an incisor. When we have a toothache and are asked by Dr. Ray Becker of Howard County Smiles, ‘which tooth is bothering you?’, a lot of us simply point and say, “that one!” like we’re implicating a suspect in a police lineup. So let’s take a moment to get to know these movers and shakers of the mouth a little better.

All About Teeth

Human beings grow two sets of teeth in our lifetime: our primary teeth and our secondary teeth. The primary teeth are more commonly known as the “baby teeth” because they start to appear when we are only about six months old. They are usually all in place by the time we reach three years of age. The secondary teeth, also known as the “adult teeth”, begin to replace the primaries as they fall out between the ages of six and twelve.

Most people usually has 32 adult teeth in their mouth but these teeth are not all the same. Your teeth play different roles based on their shapes and positions. They could be compared to the players on your favorite football team: each player has their own job but they work together as a team.

The Types of Teeth

  1. Incisors: These eight teeth, in the very front of your mouth, are primarily used for biting off pieces of food. We have four incisors on the bottom and four on top.
  2. Canines: Named after the fangs of a canine (dog) due to their sharp, pointed appearance, these are used to rip and tear food. We have four canines, two on top and two on the bottom, one on either side of our incisors.
  3. Bicuspids: Also known as premolars, these teeth are used for chewing and grinding foods. We have four bicuspids, two on the top and two on the bottom, one on either side of the canine teeth.
  4. Molars: Also used for chewing and grinding, the wide, flat teeth grow at rear of your mouth, four on top and four on the bottom, two on each side. Molars are located in an area that commonly experiences tooth decay due the fact that they can be difficult to clean thoroughly. Many people also grow third molars, also known as “wisdom teeth” due to their late arrival (late teens to early twenties). Four of these third molars will erupt, one each side, top and bottom. When wisdom teeth fail to erupt, they are said to be impacted and require a surgical procedure to remove. Wisdom teeth are also prone to tooth decay due to their location at the very rear of the mouth.


Now that you know a little more about your teeth, you may be able to better communicate with Dr. Becker if you’re having a problem with a tooth. For example, if you have pain in the top front of your mouth when you bite, you may have an issue with one of your top incisors.  Hopefully you now can at least appreciate the roles your teeth play in chewing on your food and how necessary they all are. After all, a good team is only as strong as its’ weakest player so it’s important to schedule regular cleanings and exams with Dr. Becker at Howard County Smiles in Columbia MD. To schedule call 410.415.9013 or request an appointment online.