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Importance of Human Teeth

by
author image Tami Farmer
Registered dental hygienist Tami Farmer is a graduate of the Medical College of Georgia with more than 25 years dental experience. She is currently working in a private practice in the suburbs of Atlanta. She also writes continuing education courses for dental professionals and has won awards for her dental health presentations.
Importance of Human Teeth
An attractive woman is smiling. Photo Credit Siri Stafford/DigitalVision/Getty Images

A person's teeth are not just there to look attractive in pictures. Teeth play a role in overall nutrition and general health. Teeth allow you to follow a healthy diet and stay well nourished by preparing the food you eat for swallowing and digestion. Regular dental care is important to maintain your teeth.

Types of Teeth

Incisors and canines make up the front teeth. Incisors have straight edges, designed to cut through foods, such as apples and carrots. They also act like shovels, guiding food into the mouth. Canines are slightly pointed and spear-shaped. They are designed to hold foods when biting so the food can be torn into a smaller piece that can be chewed, such as when biting chicken meat off a drumstick.

The back teeth are called premolars and molars. These teeth have large chewing surfaces to help crush and grind food so it can be swallowed easily. These teeth are in the back of the mouth where the jaws give them the strength required for chewing.

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Baby and Permanent Teeth

People have two sets of teeth during their lives. A full set of baby teeth contains 20 teeth. Babies usually get their first tooth when they're 6 months old. As they get more teeth, they are able to chew a wider variety of foods. Baby teeth are important for chewing, and also hold space for the larger, permanent teeth to come in correctly. So, it is important to care for baby teeth even though they will eventually fall out.

Around age 6, baby teeth usually start to fall out to make room for the permanent teeth. Around age 12, a child has usually lost all her baby teeth. Adults have larger mouths and need more teeth for chewing. An adult person has 32 teeth in a full set.

Digestion

A typical diet includes both plant- and animal-based foods. The different types of teeth work together to break down various types of food for digestion. Without proper maintenance, teeth can fall victim to gum disease or decay, which can lead to tooth loss. This can change what a person is able to eat and may cause heath problems associated with poor nutrition.

Speech and Appearance

Your teeth also help you talk and contribute to your personal appearance. Speech is affected by the way the teeth meet, the movement of the jaw and the movement of the tongue around the teeth. Appearance is affected by the bite of the teeth and the bones surrounding them. Missing teeth, crowding or the size of the jaw bones may cause the teeth to line up in the wrong way. These problems and tooth loss lead to changes in the facial appearance and profile.

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References

  • Dental Anatomy, Ninth Edition; The Oregon State System of Higher Education
  • Dental Anatomy, Physiology, and Occlusion, Sixth Edition; Major M. Ash Jr.
  • Modern Dental Assisting, Seventh Edition; Doni L. Bird and Debbie S. Robinson
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