Note: October 5th is designated as Smile Day! In honor of Smile Day, here's a post about the teeth that make up your smile!
When I do classroom presentations, one of the first things I ask is “Why are our teeth important?” There are three main reasons that come up in class after class:
- So we can chew our food
- So we look nice when we smile
- So we can speak properly
Your mouth is the first part of your digestive system. Food needs to be crushed and ground by your teeth to increase the available surface so food can be broken down in the digestive process. Different teeth have different purposes:
- Incisors are your front teeth, and they are designed to bite into foods and shaped to push the food back toward the rest of your teeth.
- Canines are at the corners of your mouth. They are meant to grasp and tear food.
- Premolars sit just behind your canines. When you smile, they look very similar to your canines, but their chewing surface is flatter. Their purpose is to crush food.
- Molars, the large back teeth, are designed to do the heaviest chewing and grinding. They have a flat, broad chewing surface.
Your back teeth are the most important teeth for chewing, yet because they are not as visible, many people think they are unimportant and choose to have them removed when there is a problem. Doing so forces your other teeth to take on chewing roles that they were not designed to do. You may find that you can’t eat foods that are hard to chew or that you can’t chew as well as you did when you had more back teeth. You may also see more gaps between your teeth if your teeth change position.
Healthy front teeth contribute to a beautiful smile, but did you know that your teeth also support your face? Front teeth provide support for your lips. Loss of front teeth collapses your lip and makes the folds under your nose more noticeable. The part of the lip that you’d put lipstick on folds under, creating a thin lip look. (If you know someone who wears a removable appliance to replace his or her front teeth, you can often see the difference in appearance when the appliance is removed.)
But front teeth aren’t the only teeth that are important for your appearance! Your molars create a stopping point for your bite. Without them, the lower part of your face collapses. Wrinkles and facial lines become more noticeable. Your chin or nose may seem to jut out more.
Also, the more back teeth you lose, the harder your front teeth hit together because of the lack of a stopping point. Your front teeth are not designed to take this much force and will often splay out in response, creating a buck-toothed look.
Your teeth work with your tongue, lips and roof of mouth to form sounds. Speech is an intricate process, but all you need to do is listen to a youngster who’s lost his or her front teeth to know that teeth are important for speaking. When front teeth aren’t present, the tongue doesn’t have that solid wall to position itself, and a lisp often results. Cute at age 6; not so cute as we get older. Whistling or hissing when making the “S” sound often results when your teeth are not in the proper position.
I hope this article has given you an idea of why it is important to keep your teeth--even the ones you can’t see. One key to keeping your own teeth is to find and fix any problem when they’re small. Regular visits to your dentist (every 3 to 6 months) will help you to do this. If you do not have a dentist and are interested in keeping your teeth, I invite you to visit my office. Call 440-960-1940 to schedule an appointment or contact us through my website at www.drjrobb.com. Remember, we’re saving a seat for you!
*Note: Information in this article is not meant to replace the judgement of your healthcare professionals.