The Truth About Premolars

Premolars, also called bicuspids, are the permanent teeth located between your molars in the back of your mouth and your canine teeth (cuspids) in the front. They are transitional teeth, displaying some of the features of both canines and molars, that help cut and move food from the front teeth to the molars for chewing. There are four premolar teeth in each dental arch - upper and lower.

What's the Difference Between a Premolar and a Molar?

The main distinctions between premolar and molar teeth are in their size and shape. While a molar has four cusps or points, a premolar has only two. Molars are also significantly larger than their bicuspid neighbors.

Both premolar and molar teeth have pits and fissures between their cusps that can trap the food and bacteria that lead to cavities, although the crevices in molars are deeper and more difficult to keep free of cavity-causing particles.

The premolar teeth, with the exception of the upper or maxillary first bicuspid, usually have a single root. The maxillary first premolar usually has two roots, though a single root is also possible. Molars, in contrast, all have at least two roots, with the upper molars typically having three.

Different for Kids

If you were to go looking for bicuspids in your child's mouth, you likely wouldn't find them. Baby teeth, also called deciduous teeth, do not have premolars. Instead, in the places where adults have premolars, children have what dentists call first molars. Once these fall out, they are replaced by premolars.

Learn more about the anatomy of your teeth by visiting the Colgate Oral Care resources.

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What Are The Different Parts Of A Tooth?

Each tooth has several distinct parts; here is an overview of each part:

  • Enamel – this is the outer and hardest part of the tooth that has the most mineralized tissue in the body. It can be damaged by decay if teeth are not cared for properly.

  • Dentin – this is the layer of the tooth under the enamel. If decay makes it through the enamel, it next attacks the dentin — where millions of tiny tubes lead directly to the dental pulp.

  • Pulp – this is the soft tissue found in the center of all teeth, where the nerve tissue and blood vessels are located. If tooth decay reaches the pulp, you usually feel pain and may require a root canal procedure.