We use our teeth every day. They help us to speak, to bite and chew food and even to smile. Unfortunately, most people don’t know a lot about these amazing tools and can’t even correctly put the official titles on each of their teeth. If you don’t know the difference between a molar and an incisor, understanding your dental professional’s advice or instruction is difficult.

Here is a look at the different types of teeth, their function and what they are called to help you better understand your oral care.

The majority of adults have 32 teeth, including four wisdom teeth. The top set of teeth is referred to as the maxillary and the bottom set of teeth are known as the mandibular.

Wisdom Teeth – Starting with the very back of your mouth you have four wisdom teeth – one on either side of your top row of teeth and one on either side of your bottom row of teeth. These teeth come in during the teen years, usually around 17-21 years of age, and are often removed because they crowd other teeth and can cause misalignment, because they become impacted in the jaw and can cause infections or cysts, or because they partially emerge and trap bacteria.1 Wisdom teeth are actually classified as molars.

Molars – Adjacent to your wisdom teeth are the rest of your molars. Including four wisdom teeth, you have 12 molars in total. On the top set of teeth you have two molars on each side and on the bottom set of teeth you have two molars on each side. After the wisdom teeth are removed, most adults have a total of 8 molars which are broad and relatively flat-surfaced in order to grind food.

Pre-Molars or Bicuspids – Next to your molars you have a total of eight premolars, including two on each side of your top row of teeth and two on each side of your bottom row of teeth. These pre-molars resemble molars in appearance except that they have two indentations, or cusps, in them. This is why the pre-molars can also be referred to as the bicuspids. The role of the premolar is to cut and tear food.2

Canines or Cuspids – Perhaps the most easily recognizable teeth are the canines, which can also be referred to as the cuspids. You have four of these teeth, which come to a point on the end. They are located in the front of your mouth with one each on either side of your top set of teeth and your bottom set of teeth. The canines grab and tear your food.

Incisors – At the very front of your mouth are your eight incisor teeth. You have four incisors in the front on the top and four incisors in the front on the bottom. The job of the incisors is to hold and cut or gnaw food.

Now when your dentist tells you that your mandibular incisor is chipped, it won’t seem like your dentist is talking in a foreign language. You will know that one of your four bottom teeth in front has an issue! Of course, most dental professionals are glad to explain any term you don’t understand.

So, even if you don’t remember the difference between an incisor and a molar, simply ask your dental professional to show you which tooth they have identified as having an issue. Patient education is part of good dental care, so you should never be shy about asking for an explanation if you don’t understand what your dentist or dental professional has told you.

Our Walled Lake Dental Office is committed to providing personal attention that sets us apart from many dentists in our community. Our experienced dental team is skilled and prepared to address all your dental health concerns so that you can achieve and maintain long term dental health.

We are a full-service dental clinic offering the latest technology in modern dentistry including a comprehensive list of general, restorative, and cosmetic dental care services to meet the needs of your entire family. Dr. Hechtman has been providing optimal dental care for over 40 years! Call us today for a Free Dental Consultation!


1 Wisdom Teeth Removal: When Is It Necessary?
Link: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/wisdom-teeth/expert-answers/wisdom-teeth-removal/faq-20058558

2 How Many Teeth Do Adults Have?
Link: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-many-teeth-do-adults-have#How-many-teeth-do-adults-have?