Teeth or sometimes called “Dentes” is one of the accessory organs that are part of the digestive system. They act for supporting digestive process which are located in the “Buccal Cavity” or more commonly known as oral cavity or merely the “Mouth”.
The teeth are a chewing organ, also known as Mastication. Teeth have the ability to tear, cut and grind food in the oral cavity, allowing food to get mixed with saliva (out of the salivary gland) so it can be swallowed easily for further digestion in the stomach.
Because they work mechanically, teeth also have other important functions apart from being supportive of the digestive systems, meaning that teeth also affect the person’s clarity in speaking. Then, how can teeth contribute to the digestive process?
When you use your teeth to cut, tear and chew food, it increases the possibility of the surface area of the food in your mouth. Thus, allowing the digestive enzymes to get a larger access to the food and assist their role in the digestive process.
Aspects of Teeth Which Affect their Effectiveness
There are some aspects which are very influential in the effectiveness of the teeth in the process of digestion; a few of them are;
- Shape of teeth
- Hard surfaces of teeth
Teeth occupy the oral cavity in several different types; these different types determine the function of each tooth for different tasks, for example, the Incisors. This type of tooth has the sharpest edge and their shape allows for cutting food.
While the other type is molars, which have larger surfaces and relatively flatters and is very suitable for grinding food. Canines, on the other hand, come with a tapered shape that allows for tearing food.
The teeth have hard surfaces structure which is the result of the teeth enamel covering the dental crown. Enamel is the hardest substance which can be found in the human body.
How Many Teeth do We Have?
Now you understand that the teeth are an accessory organ which works for supporting the digestive system and the main function of each of the tooth. Then you may also ask yourself, “How many teeth do I have?” or “How many teeth do we need actually?” So that they will work effectively to perform their role.
The answer depends on several factors, and the main factor being age. Throughout our lives, as children and adults, we all have two different sets of teeth, meaning that one set grown for our childhood, while another one is for our adulthood – thus we are “Diphyodonts”. To get to know more about the numbers of teeth in humans, let’s start with the little ones.
How Many Teeth do Kids Have?
Children may start teething between the ages of six months to one year – (probably about 33 months), however, some babies are known to be born with one or more visible teeth – which are known as neonatal teeth. They develop at least 20 baby teeth once they’ve grown in. 10 teeth are located in the bottom of jawbone – (mandibular arch) and 10 teeth are located in the top of the jawbone – (maxillary arch).
The first set of teeth of children is commonly known by many distinct names – including milk teeth, primary teeth, baby teeth, fall teeth, deciduous teeth, reborner teeth and temporary teeth. The bottom two teeth usually erupt first, followed by the top two. The teething process that comes out of the gums can be painful for the children; hence you need to be careful when it comes to dealing with baby teeth.
Baby teeth usually look whiter and smaller than those of adult teeth, a complete set of baby teeth will actually emerge once the babies reach the ages of two or three years, and when children reach the age of about six, they begin to lose their baby teeth and replaced by adult teeth when they are in teens.
For this reason, we realize that baby teeth act as initial placeholders for the growth of adult teeth once the baby teeth fall out. Experts have classified these 20 teeth into 3 classes based on the function and unique shape of each tooth during chewing. So, baby teeth are divided into – 8x incisors, 8x canines, and 4x molars. More explanations are described below.
1. Incisor teeth
The oral cavity of children is usually filled with eight incisors from the primary set of their teeth. The primary function of the incisors is for slicing and cutting foods, the first four teeth located in the front of either upper or lower jaws. The two very fronts of the teeth are called central incisors, while the righty and lefty teeth are the lateral incisors.
2. Canine teeth
Most mammals have canine teeth in their oral cavity, including humans. Canines or cuspid teeth offer the ability to tear and cut some fibrous foods such as meat. Children have four canine teeth from their secondary set of teeth, just exactly as the same number possessed by adults.
The first two canine teeth are located on either side of the mouth, next to the lateral incisors in the upper jaw, while the rest ones are located in the lower jaw the same position as opposite of the upper jaw.
3. Molar teeth
Humans always have four canine teeth and eight incisors regardless of age, meaning that there are eight front teeth, both in the lower and upper jaws, which are the same amount in the secondary and primary set of teeth, plus two pairs of canine teeth.
The only difference that indicates whether they are baby teeth or adult teeth is the number of molars which sit in the oral cavity. Molar teeth have the ability to destroy and crush food before entering the digestive system.
During the childhood, they have eight molars, in which four first molars sit in the upper jaw while the rest ones sit in the lower jaw opposite the first ones. The first molars are located next to the canine teeth, and the second ones are adjacent to the first molars, which applies to either the upper or lower jaw.
The second molars are the last baby tooth growing on the back of the mouth, meaning that during the teething process, baby teeth erupt at different stages as the baby grows toward the childhood stage.
How Many Teeth do Adults Have?
Most individuals develop an almost complete set of adult teeth when they reach the age of about 12 years. The last adult teeth appearing on the back of the mouth is the Wisdom teeth. These teeth can take much longer to erupt, around the age of 17 – 21 years.
However, not all individuals are identical to each other, which mean that ages are a mere of an estimate. Some people, although rare, are known to keep one or two – “milk teeth” until they reach adulthood. On the contrary, some people also emerge adult teeth relatively early or even relatively late in some cases of individuals.
Most adults usually have more teeth than children, a complete set of adult teeth comprising 32 teeth in total. 16 teeth sit on the upper jawbone – (maxillary arch), while the other 16 teeth sit on the lower jawbone – (mandibular arch).
These 32 teeth are classified based on the function and usefulness of each tooth and divided into 4 different classes. Among these teeth are – 8x incisors, 4x canine teeth, 8x premolar teeth and 12x molars – (including wisdom teeth).
1. Incisor teeth
There are eight incisors that can be found in adult teeth, consisting of four central incisors and four lateral incisors, just as the exact number of the incisors in the deciduous teeth.
The two very front teeth which sit either on upper or the lower jaw are the central incisors, while the lateral incisors can be found next to them – on the left and right.
2. Canine teeth
Canine teeth can also be found in the adult teeth structure, there are four canine teeth from the secondary set of teeth which are located on the left and right side of the lateral incisors of the upper and lower jaw bones.
3. Premolar teeth
There are 8 premolar teeth that fill the oral cavity of the adult set of teeth, they can be found between permanent incisors and permanent molars. In the upper and lower jawbones, there are two premolar teeth that fill either sides of the mouth.
By the time the first and second primary molars of the baby’s teeth fall out, their position will be replaced by the adult premolars.
4. Molar teeth
When it comes to human teeth, we cannot rule out the molars as part of the set of teeth either in children or adults. Based on the structure of the adult set of teeth, there are 12 molar teeth which may occupy the adult mouth cavity.
There are 3 molar teeth that occupy the upper and lower jawbones on either side of the mouth, which exactly behind the second premolar teeth – (premolars take place of the first and second molar milk teeth), meaning that these 3 molars will emerge in the empty space where no primary teeth occupied before.
Most modern humans do not have enough space for 32 teeth in their oral cavity, which results in the wisdom teeth not getting enough space to grow. Therefore, it is common for the wisdom teeth to be removed to give enough space for other teeth and prevent the misalignment of teeth.
How Many Teeth do We Need?
Teeth may last for about 40 to 50 years, and life expectancy now well goes far beyond that and increasing due to advancement in health technologies.
Some people may expect to take all 32 of their teeth to the graves. However, due to many factors affecting the teeth strength, many of them will lose some of their teeth over time. At some point, there is a possibility that individual needs to take a dental implant or set of dentures – (either partially or completely).
However, how many teeth do we really need, and do we need to replace them in the case of one or more of them falling out?
Each tooth has a different shape with a specific purpose. According to its function, nearly 80% of the chewing process relies on the first molars, whereas the remaining teeth work simultaneously in one unity to serve the first molars so that they work properly.
It means that in case there are one or more missing teeth, the mastication workload will be distributed to the remaining teeth. It results in an increase in the likelihood of gum disease, decay, cracks, and fractures.
So basically, if you lose one or more of your teeth, and you do not even care to replace it, then you have increased your possibility to lose more of your teeth to the next period. Some dentists may say that “20” is the minimum benchmark of the number of teeth that should fill an individual’s oral cavity. But in fact, everything always comes down to the functionality of the teeth.
Therefore, an early inquiry by the dentist needs to be run to ascertain whether the number of your adult teeth is sufficient in performing their function to chew food as well as to provide clarity in speech. In addition, keep in mind that the alignment of teeth greatly contributes to the aesthetics of a smile, and this is an essential requirement to make decisions about the health of your mouth.
A number of reasons indicate that the baby’s teeth structure have similarities with adult teeth, which contain a sensitive part called the pulp – (nerve). If you neglect the treatment of baby teeth, they may have a decay of the nerve real fast, as a result of smaller sizes and lowered mineralization of baby teeth.
Early decay of baby teeth requires tooth extraction, and since your kids still have jawbones development for the next few years, then it is possible that their adult teeth position may have misalignment which requires certain orthodontic treatment course in the future.