Whether you’re eating, speaking or smiling, your teeth play a big role in daily life. These small structures in the mouth seem simple but are complex and powerful.

The teeth’s main functions are to chew food for further digestion, provide structure and tissue support to the face, and assist in pronunciation during speech.

Teeth are divided into four quadrants—two on the upper jaw, two on the lower jaw—which each include a medial incisor,

  • a lateral incisor,
  • a canine,
  • two premolars, and
  • two to three molars
    (Siero-slawska 2020).

The incisors, at the front, are used for cutting and biting; the canines and premolars are used for gripping; and the molars in the back are used for grinding.

You are probably most familiar with the crown—the visible part of the tooth—and the roots beneath the gums. However, below the hard exterior of the tooth lies a second, softer and slightly darker, layer known as the dentin. This capsule divides the tough outer tissue from the fragile pulp cavity in the tooth’s inner layer, where the blood vessels and nerves sit. Both the exterior enamel and the dentin must be intact to keep the tooth healthy and prevent bacteria from entering (Sieroslawska 2020).

Now sink your teeth into more fascinating facts about chompers:

  • People typically have 20 baby teeth and 32 permanent teeth (University of Utah Health 2017).
  • The outer coating on teeth, called enamel, is the hardest part of the human body (University of Utah Health 2017).
  • The number of roots varies by tooth. The anterior teeth in both the upper and lower jaws, including the first premolars, incisors and canines, are all single-root teeth. On the upper jaw, the second premolar can have up to two roots and the molars up to three. On the lower jaw, the second premolar has only one root, while the molars have one or two (Sieroslawska 2020).
  • Studies suggest brushing your teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, since people with poor oral health have higher rates of cardiovascular problems (Shmerling 2018; American Heart Association News 2018).
  • Common afflictions of the teeth include gingivitis—a mild gum disease that makes gums red and tender—and periodontitis—a severe infection of the gums that leads to bleeding, pain and even tooth loss (NIA 2020).
  • Stress can contribute to poor tooth health by causing tightening of the jaw muscles and teeth grinding or clenching, known as bruxism (Wongvibulsin 2020).
  • Foods and beverages that support healthy teeth in-clude fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, dairy products, green and black teas, and foods or drinks with fluoride. Experts recommend avoiding sticky candies and sweets, starchy food, carbonated soft drinks, and substances that dry out the mouth, like alcohol (URMC 2020).