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A simple guide on Dental Anatomy

November 17, 2009

Ever wonder what the dentist is talking about when they say something like “left maxillary lateral incisor”? That’s just the general nomenclature used for your teeth. The mouth is split into four different quadrants, all with the same type of teeth.  To start, the top row of teeth is called the maxillary teeth, named for the upper jawbone called the maxilla.  Conversely, the bottom row of teeth is referred to as the mandibular teeth, named for the mandible jawbone. These rows of teeth are symmetrically split down the middle, meaning that the left side and the right side are essentially the same. Thus, the four quadrants are the left maxillary, right maxillary, left mandibular, and right mandibular.  Each of these quandrants have the same eight teeth each. First are the incisors, which are the teeth in the direct center of the smile and are the most visible.  There are two in each quadrant: the central incisor, found directly at the midline, and the lateral incisor, which is distally located to the central incisor.  The incisors are used for cutting and shearing food during chewing. Next is the canine, aka the cuspid, which is the sharp pointy tooth located three teeth away from the midline.  The canine is used primarily for tearing food, and it complements both the incisors and the premolars. The first and second premolars, also referred to as the bicuspids, each have 2 cusps on them which allow them to help the canines with tearing as well as help the molars with chewing. Finally, the first, second, and third molars are next.  They each have 4 cusps on top used primarily for grinding food.  The third molar is also known as the wisdom tooth, and is most often associated with causing dental problems, and is often removed entirely. These eight teeth types fill up the four equal quadrants, thus making up the 32 permanent teeth in your mouth.  So next time you hear your dentist talk about the right mandibular 1st premolar, you’ll get an idea of what they are talking about.