To help you have the healthiest mouth in 2016, let’s take it back to basics. What do you really know about your teeth? Can you name all the different kinds, and what they each do? Today, let’s focus on molars — those flat teeth in the back of your mouths that do a whole lot of work when you eat!
Each person has 12 molars in the back of their mouths, three on each side of the upper and lower jaw. Each molar has four cusps (also called points). Molars are also the largest teeth in the mouth and have a broad, flat surface for grinding food, making it easier to chew.
There are actually three different kinds of molars that will develop throughout your life:
Your first molars, or maxillary first molars, are the first molars to erupt in the mouth when a child is between 1- 1 1/2 years old. The secondary molars (maxillary second molars) emerge when a child is about 2 years old. Both kinds of primary molars will fall out by 9-12 years and will be replaced by permanent adult molars.
The third molars are those dreaded wisdom teeth that emerge by about 16-25 years of age. While some people will never develop wisdom teeth or will develop their third molars without any problems, many will eventually need to have their wisdom teeth removed. This is because our mouths have evolved to no longer need these extra teeth, thanks to the fact that modern food is much easier to chew than what our ancient ancestors used to eat! So, our jaws have become smaller, which forces the third molars to grow in crookedly. We’ve written everything you need to know about wisdom teeth right here, in case you’re curious about the development and extraction process of these tricky chompers.
Molars can be hard to keep clean for two reasons. One, it’s hard to see that far into your mouth, and it could be difficult to reach your toothbrush and floss all the way back there. For some people, cleaning their molars can even activate the gag reflex! Secondly, molars contain many more pits and fissures than your other teeth, which can trap food and bacteria and cause decay. Even vigilant brushers may have difficulty making sure each nook and cranny is clean, which is why it’s essential to go for at least two dental checkups each year. Otherwise, you’ll likely develop cavities that will either require fillings or root canals — the latter being quite a difficult procedure as molars each have 3-4 roots! So, take good care of your molars, and they’ll take good care of you.
Got any burning questions about your molars? Let us know in the comments!