We started with the backmost teeth in our last Get To Know Your Teeth post, now let’s go to the frontmost teeth: the incisors. Each of us has eight incisors, four on top and four on the bottom. The front two teeth on the top and bottom are the central incisors, and the four on either side of these teeth are the lateral incisors. They’re also the first teeth to erupt — but what are they for?
Unlike the molars, these teeth are broad, thin, smooth and flat rather than square-shaped and pitted. Their shape helps their function, which is to tear into food and break it into bite-size pieces for your molars to grind down.
The incisors also serve an aesthetic function. As the most prominent teeth, your incisors are the central focus of your smile. However, maintaining bright, white incisors can be a challenge. They’re the first teeth to meet everything you eat and drink, and are therefore prone to staining and tartar buildup. This is particularly true for the bottom incisors, as the inside of the bottom lip can sometimes make it difficult to reach and clean along the bottom gum line. The broad, thin shape also makes the incisors more prone to chipping and breakage, so be careful not to chomp on any hard or sticky foods and candies.
Alignment can be an issue with incisors, especially in children and young adults. This can be due to thumb-sucking or tongue thrust and can be corrected with braces.
Finally, while cavities are a common problem for molars, incisors can get them too. Unlike molars, they only have one root, which makes life easier (for you and your periodontist) if you ever need a root canal here in any of these teeth.
Sounds like it’s hard to take care of your incisors, but don’t fret. With diligent brushing and being careful not to abuse your teeth by chomping down on lollipops, your incisors should serve you well year after year.