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Your teeth are part of the first stage of digestion. They are used to tear, scrape and chew food into small digestible pieces. As a child, you have baby teeth. These eventually fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth. Taking care of your teeth, by brushing them at least twice a day, is important for keeping them healthy and clean. Cleaning your teeth removes plaque and bacteria that can cause dental caries and other dental problems. Dental problems could result in losing your teeth, making it very difficult to eat. Read on to learn more about the teeth, and their role in digestion.

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Tooth Anatomy
Teeth in Lower Jaw

Humans grow two sets of teeth in their lifetime. The first set of teeth are called baby teeth, milk teeth or primary teeth. They start growing at about 6 months of age, and you have a full set by the age of 2 or 3. When you reach 5 or 6 years of age, these baby teeth start falling out one-by-one. At the age of 12 or 13, a second set of 28 permanent teeth replace the baby teeth. Lastly, between the ages of 17 to 21, four more teeth called wisdom teeth usually grow in at the back of the mouth. This completes the set of 32 adult teeth -- 16 in the upper jaw and 16 in the lower jaw.

The figure to the right shows the lower jaw with its 16 teeth. The upper part of the diagram provides the names of the 8 teeth on the right side, starting from the center and moving to the right. These include the incisors, canine, premolar and molars.

The incisors are shaped like chisels. They are relatively sharp and are used to cut and chop food. When you bite into an apple, it is the incisors the pierce the skin and cut into it. The canine teeth are pointy and sharp. They are used to grip and tear food. The premolars are big and strong. They are relatively flat with ridges. They are used to crush and grind food. The molars are similar to the premolars, just a little larger. They also crush, grind and mash the food, making it ready to be swallowed.


Tooth Anatomy

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Tooth Anatomy
Tooth Anatomy

Each tooth consists of the crown above the gum line, and the root below the gum line. The main parts of a tooth include the enamel, dentin, pulp and cementum.

Enamel is a hard mineral covering the surface of the crown. It protects the tooth. Dentin is the largest part of the tooth. Although not as hard as enamel, it provides additional protection to the tooth. It also supports the crown of the tooth. The pulp contains the nerve endings and blood vessels. If you eat something too hot or cold, or fall and hurt the tooth, it is the nerves in the pulp that hurt. The blood vessels feed the tooth to keep it alive and healthy. The cementum is the root part of the tooth connecting it to the jaw bone.

Brushing and flossing your teeth help to keep them clean and strong. Brushing cleans the surface and flossing cleans between teeth. Brushing and flossing removes food and plaque that can cause cavities and gum disease. Eating less sugary snacks and drinks, such as soda, can also help prevent tooth decay or cavities.


Books on the Teeth

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