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Types of teeth

Learning Objectives

After going through this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Identify the different types of teeth.
  2. Learn about the functions of each type of tooth.

Watch video

Inside the oral cavity there are plenty of important and relevant structures that play an integral role in various functions. One of the most important structures to note are the teeth, not only do they play a role as the first door to digestion and nutrition (through mastication or chewing) but they also are key in speech and appearance. Teeth are organized in 2 arches, a maxillary or superior arch and a mandibular or inferior arch where each arch is divided into 2 quadrants.

There are 2 sets of teeth during a lifetime, these are the deciduous or primary dentition and the permanent or adult teeth. The deciduous dentition is composed of 20 teeth (5 in each quadrant) while the permanent dentition is composed of 32 teeth (8 teeth in each quadrant). Primary teeth, also known as milk teeth, are found from early infancy (6-month-olds) until early teenage life. These teeth are important when it comes to maintaining enough space for permanent teeth and their correct placement in the maxillary and mandible.

Each quadrant in the permanent dentition is made up of 8 teeth (1 central incisor, 1 lateral incisor, 1 canine, 2 premolars and 3 molars), whereas in the deciduous dentition each quadrant is made up of 5 teeth (1 central incisor, 1 lateral incisor, 1 canine and 2 molars). The morphology and anatomical characteristics of each of these are specific to each tooth since they have different functions.

To learn more about the overall anatomy and function of each type of tooth, watch the following video where you’ll find an easy description of this topic along with some clinical notes:

Take a quiz

Now that you’ve learned about the different types of teeth, it’s time to challenge yourself to see if you can identify each of them in the following quiz. Take this as an opportunity to solidify what you know so far about this topic.

Found your weak spots? Try our customizable quiz where you’ll be able to focus on your weak spots and decide which topics you want to be tested on

Download the following PDF worksheets and learn the types of the teeth.


Browse atlas

It’s time for you to take a closer look at each individual tooth in the permanent dentition.


Key points about the permanent dentition
Function Key player in mastication (chewing), speech and appearance.
Incisor teeth Number in total: 8 (maxillary/mandibular central and lateral incisors)
Cut and bite into food
Number of roots: 1
Non-existent. Bear sharp incisal edges that help bite into food
Canine teeth Number in total: 4
Tear food
Number of roots:
Number of cusps:
Premolar teeth Number in total: 8 (maxillary/mandibular first and second premolars)
Tear and grind food
Number of roots:
1 (exception: maxillary first premolar → 2)
Number of cusps:
2 (exception: mandibular second premolar → 3)
Molar teeth Number in total: 12 (maxillary/mandibular first, second and third molars)
Crush and grind food
Number of roots:

Maxillary molars → 3 [generally]
Mandibular molars → 2 [generally]
Number of cusps:

Maxillary first molar → 4 (with accessory cusp (of Carabelli) Mandibular first molar → 5
Maxillary/mandibular second molar → 4
Maxillary/mandibular third molars/wisdom teeth → variable

Well done!

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