They're the first teeth you get as a baby -- and also the first adult teeth to erupt. Incisors are the teeth located in the front of your mouth. They're usually the first teeth visible when you smile, not only for their location but for the flat, smooth surface that give them a translucent, white luster.
The word incisor comes from the Latin word "incidere," or "to cut." And that is exactly what they are used for. The sharp edges on the bottom of incisor teeth are designed for cutting food. They look flat, but incisors are actually slightly convex, or curved towards the back of the mouth. Another trait of an incisor tooth is it has one single long root, unlike molars, which usually have 2-3 roots per tooth.
The Incisors Name Game
Incisor and cuspid teeth fall into the category of anterior teeth, the front six teeth located on both sets of jaws (posterior teeth are located in the back of your mouth and are used for grinding and chewing food). Humans have a total of eight incisors -- four on the maxillary (upper) jaw and four on the mandibular (lower) jaw. Both children and adults have incisor teeth, which are labeled according to their position in the mouth:
Central Incisor -- Central incisor teeth are in a mesial position, or at the very front and center of your jaw. Maxillary central incisors are the largest and often most prominent of the incisor teeth.
Lateral Incisor -- Each lateral incisor tooth is located on either side of a central incisor. In terms of their proximity to central incisors, they are considered distal, or moving away from the center of the mouth.
Take a look in the mirror to pinpoint the location of each incisor. You'll notice that upper lateral incisors are slightly smaller than the upper central incisors. Mandibular incisors are significantly smaller than maxillary incisor teeth and mandibular central incisors are the smallest teeth teeth in your mouth.
Incisor Tooth Problems
When your bite is in perfect occlusion, or the proper alignment of the jaws and teeth, each maxillary incisor tooth should slightly overlap the mandibular incisor located beneath it. A malocclusion, or bad bite, is a common problem among incisor teeth. A misaligned jaw and crooked teeth can result in an underbite, overbite or crossbite, making it hard for the incisor to do its job. When a malocclusion of the incisor teeth is severe or combined with orthodontic problems in the posterior teeth, dental braces are often needed to correct your bite. If there is only a slight malocclusion in your anterior teeth, veneers can be used to fix the problem.
Anterior teeth are longer, thinner and weaker than posterior teeth, making them more likely to chip or break. Incisors are also subject to cavities and other dental problems that are common in molars. Because of each incisor tooth's prominent placement in the mouth, tooth stains and other imperfections are often more noticeable than on any other teeth. Good oral hygiene and regular dental visits are necessary to prevent common dental problems from affecting incisor teeth.
Incisor Tooth Facts …
Humans aren't the only species with incisors. Incisor teeth are found in many herbivorous (plant-eating) and omnivorous (plant and meat-eating) animals. Incisors are very prominent in rabbits, cats, rodents and horses. Elephants also have incisors -- in the form of tusks!
If you have any incisor problems, a dentist can help! Whether you need a tooth filling, braces or veneers, incisor tooth treatment should be done ASAP to restore the function of your mouth and improve aesthetics and lifestyle.