The Different Types of Teeth and What They Do

Teeth — they help us bite and chew food and help us speak clearly. Adults have four kinds of permanent teeth, and each tooth has a specific job to do. Most adults have 32 teeth, which differ in shape and function. Here we cover the different types of teeth and what they do.

What are the Four Different Types of Teeth?


Incisors are the eight thin, flat teeth located at the front of the mouth. Adults have four in the upper jaw and four in the lower jaw. Incisors help you bite into food and help you speak clearly. They also help support the lips.

There are two kinds of incisors — central incisors and lateral incisors. Incisors usually appear when a person is 7 to 9 years of age.


Adults have four canine teeth, located on either side of the upper and lower incisors. Canine teeth cut and shear food and, like incisors, support the lips. Canine teeth also help guide the teeth into position when a person opens and closes their jaw.

Canine teeth are also called cuspids. Canines usually appear when a person is 9 to 12 years of age.


Premolars, also called bicuspids, are located just behind the canine teeth. Premolars have a flat surface. Their job is to chew food and maintain the shape of the face. Each adult has eight premolars — four on the top and four on the bottom.

There are two types of premolars — first premolars and second premolars. Premolars usually appear when a person is 10 to 12 years of age.


Molars are located in the back of the mouth, behind the premolars. Each adult has twelve molars — six on the top and six on the bottom. Molar teeth are wide with a flat surface. Like premolars, molars chew and grind food and help to maintain face shape.

There are three types of molars — first molars, second molars, and third molars. Third molars, often called wisdom teeth, are located at the very back of the mouth.

The first molars usually appear when a child is 6 to 7 years of age. The second molars usually appear when a child is 11 to 13 years of age. The third molars (wisdom teeth) are the last teeth to appear — during early adulthood (17 to 21 years of age).

Wisdom teeth are often surgically removed to prevent the displacement of other teeth.

Also, tooth shape may vary from person to person. Your teeth may be naturally shorter, longer, smaller, or larger than another person's. No matter your age, it's important to regularly visit your dentist to keep a bright and healthy smile.

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