Why Each Individual Tooth Is Important

Four model teeth that have various facial expressions painted on them with a toothbrush hovering over them.

Recognizing the role of each tooth can help you better appreciate the value of your mouth and how to take care of it. Each individual tooth has a part to play in a healthy smile and mouth. That even includes the baby teeth. From birth and throughout adulthood, each individual tooth is important for maintaining good oral health, the structure of the mouth and much more.


Your Teeth

For humans, teeth play an important role in communication, eating, biting, chewing, speech development as a toddler, digestion and structure. Without your teeth, your cheeks would be sunken in on each side, as would the front of your face. Your teeth support your cheeks and keep your jaw strong. Even missing one tooth in an area of your jaw will weaken that part of your jawbone.


Each individual tooth actually developed in the womb. The baby teeth don’t simply grow in the mouth as an infant ages, but they fall down towards the gums and pop through. Both the adult teeth and the baby teeth form before an infant is born, and they stay up in the jawbones until a certain age. Depending on how well a person takes care of their oral health, they can keep their baby teeth until the teenage years, where they will get adult teeth. As well, they will also keep their natural permanent teeth for many decades instead of losing them prematurely. It all depends on how well each individual tooth is taken care of.


Various colors of teeth with each individual tooth being a color of the rainbow.

The Baby Teeth

Many people think that the baby teeth are not that important, but that is definitely not the case! Yes, these teeth will eventually fall out, but they are very important if a child wants to have a healthy mouth when they’re young and old. Children have a very high percentage of dental caries (about 42%), which can quickly lead to the loss of a baby tooth. Each individual tooth is important, so losing even one baby tooth can throw off the alignment of the permanent teeth.


For example, if a child loses a baby tooth too soon, whatever tooth is above it might shift down into the space and come into the mouth. This could happen before a child’s mouth has grown enough to support an adult tooth without making the rest of the teeth shift. Because a child’s mouth has not grown to the size it will be as a teen and adult, a tooth can come in at the wrong place if a baby tooth is lost too soon. That can shift the whole alignment of a child’s smile, which will affect their mouth as they age. In some cases, orthodontic care early and also during the teen years is the only way to correct a problem.


That is why it’s so important to brush the delicate baby teeth as soon as an infant gets their first tooth. Milk, formula and baby food can all decay the tiny baby teeth. Putting an infant down with a baby bottle at night can decay the teeth even faster. Even one individual tooth can harm a child’s smile and mess up how their bite develops, which in turn affects speech development and learning.


Close-up view of a woman's smile.

Adult, Permanent Teeth

Baby teeth all look pretty similar in size and shape. However, the permanent teeth will look differently depending on their function. Here is what the permanent teeth do:

  • You have  4 front teeth (called “incisors”) both on top and on bottom that are similar in size and shape. These are the teeth that bite into food and are the first step in the digestion process.
  • Next to the incisors are two pointier teeth. These are called the “canines” or the “cuspids”. These teeth cut and shear food to make chewing easier. They are the outer teeth that support the shape of the mouth and lips. These canines are especially helpful for tough foods like meat.
  • The next teeth in line both on top and bottom are the “premolars”. They are flatter than the canines, but wider than both of these other types of teeth. These are sturdy teeth that help chew feed up. There are 8 premolars total.
  • The last teeth are the 3 molars on each side of the mouth both on top bottom, making 12 teeth total. Many people end up having their “3rd molar”, or their “wisdom teeth”, removed to avoid tooth crowding and dental problems.

An adult will have 32 total adult teeth, but only 20 baby teeth. That is why a child needs to take care of their teeth long enough for their jaws to grow and make room for the adult teeth to come in correctly. If a patient cares for those 32 teeth (minus the wisdom teeth), they can actually keep their natural teeth until the day they die.


Taking Care of Each Individual Tooth

Did you know that the teeth are the hardest substance in the human body? Many people think that the bones are the hardest, but the bones are filled with spongy cartilage, blood vessels and other tissues. The teeth, however, are 96% mineral, which is why they can bite hard food items such as nuts. However, no matter how strong the teeth are, they can still break or decay due to oral health habits. If patients aren’t brushing and flossing their teeth several times a day, the teeth will weaken, change colors, and can even break.


Each individual tooth needs to be cleaned several times a day. The American Dental Association recommends cleaning each individual tooth at least twice a day and flossing 1-2 times. You should also be seeing the dentist at least twice a year (every 6 months) to avoid tooth decay, gum disease and oral health problems. These are the best habits you can have to take care of each individual tooth and make sure that each one stays healthy. To learn more about your teeth, call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies today at (970) 223-8425!