Getting to Know your Teeth

Tuesday, November 11, 2015

Most people have a basic understanding about what their teeth are made of and what they do. However, fewer people know the different varieties of teeth people have and how to best look after them.

Teeth are the hardest substance in the human body, used for chewing and breaking up food for easy consumption and digestion. Teeth also play an important role in speech – have you ever tried talking without your two front teeth? Some children develop a slight lisp when losing these teeth.

Apart from practical functionality, teeth also play a large role in our appearance, and, therefore first impressions and self-esteem.


Humans have two sets of teeth in their lifetime; baby teeth (also known as milk teeth) and permanent teeth which take the place of lost baby teeth generally by the age of 13. A normal adult mouth has 32 teeth in total.

There are four types of teeth in the human mouth.

  • 8 incisors, the middle four teeth on the upper and lower jaw
  • 4 Canines, the pointed teeth outside the incisors
  • 8 premolars, next to the canines
  • 12 molars, flat teeth in the back of the mouth for grinding food of which 4 are also called wisdom teeth, usually arriving at around age 18

Your teeth can be broken down into 3 major zones:

  • Support and functional zone – molar teeth
  • Cosmetic zone – front teeth (incisors and canines). Mainly cosmetic purposes as they are visible in your smile, but don’t do much chewing work.
  • intermediate zone – premolar teeth. Provide some support and function and are cosmetically visible in a smile.


The structure of the tooth and support can be divided into 2 main categories.

The tooth itself- Enamel is the hard outer layer of the tooth that is visible and that takes the brunt of the biting pressure. Enamel strengthens and protects the tooth. Under this layer lies the Dentine and right in the middle lies the dental pulp, commonly referred to as the nerve. This pulp/nerve travels from the tip of the tooth’s root into the crown via a canal in the root, what is commonly called the root canal.

The support structures are the surrounding structures that support the teeth in the jaws are collectively named the periodontium and include the bone, the periodontal ligament and the gingiva (commonly known as the gums).


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