Maxillary Teeth: Characteristics and Evolution

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Your maxillary teeth, which comprise the upper set along the maxillary jawbone, include your top incisors, canines, premolars and molars. And they can have a significant effect on your maxillary sinus cavities, according to Dentistry Today.

Without proper care of these teeth, they can add to the occurrence of an infection of the gum tissue. Therefore, understanding the role of these upper teeth and how to take care of them helps to maintain your oral care against many types of bacteria.

Your upper teeth

As a baby, you have 10 upper primary teeth: two central incisors, lateral incisors, canines, first molars and second molars. But as you reach adulthood, that number grows to 16 with the addition of two first premolars, two second premolars and two third molars, as depicted by the American Dental Association (ADA).

Most of your maxillary teeth serve a specific function in eating and digestion. Think of them as food-preparation tools you'd find in your kitchen: An incisor is like a knife, cutting into the food you eat; canines are like forks, serving to tear and break down this food; and your premolars, first and second molars are like a mortar and pestle, cutting and crushing your food for digestion.

But unlike your ancestors, who needed their third molars for their generation's typical diet, you no longer have the room in your mouth or the use for them, as explained by Indiana Public Media. Today, most dentists advise extracting these "wisdom teeth" to prevent overcrowding and infection.

Maxillary vs. mandibular

Your maxillary and mandibular teeth, or your upper and lower teeth, are generally similar in position and purpose. However, one unique quality that differentiates your upper teeth from your mandibular teeth is the timing of their eruption.

According to American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), baby teeth (or "deciduous" upper and lower teeth) come in at a similar rate – except for maxillary incisors, which erupt about a month later than the lower incisors. When your permanent teeth come in, your permanent maxillary incisors and canines all erupt an average of one year after your lower ones. Permanent maxillary molars, on the other hand, tend to erupt at about the same time as your mandibular molars.

How they affect your sinuses

Your maxillary sinuses are often the first to become infected, suggests Dentistry Today, and they're also the largest sinus cavities. It's easy to mistake a sinus infection for a tooth infection due to its proximity to your upper teeth, and how pressure here can deliver pain to the teeth rooted in your maxilla. With this in mind, your dentist will examine your teeth by ruling out a tooth infection and then referring you to your general physician for the diagnosis of a sinus infection.

Nonetheless, it is possible for your maxillary teeth to cause sinus pain because of a tooth infection. Your first maxillary molar, which is closest to the sinus cavity, is most commonly the cause. Because there are many reasons for pain in the maxillary area, however, it's important for your dentist to take all necessary steps first, like an X-ray or percussion – examining your teeth – to determine the true cause of your discomfort.

Proper care for maxillary molars

Proper daily brushing is an integral part of keeping your maxillary molars and teeth healthy, as is true for all your teeth. The raised cleaning tips of products like the Colgate® 360® Enamel Health toothbrush, which help to get into hard-to-reach places, are a great way to make sure your first and second molars remain healthy.

If you find your upper gums in the back of your mouth are sore, red or even swollen, schedule a visit with your dentist. He or she can determine whether it's your third molar eruption or an abscess due to infection. Putting this visit off can increase the infection and cause greater discomfort – which isn't ideal if you need a tooth abstraction for an impacted molar.

Treating yourself well by taking consistent care of your teeth can help increase the quality and length of your natural smile. And knowing more about your teeth can help you take better care of them.

Keep your teeth clean with an oral health routine.

Establishing an oral health routine is important for a healthy mouth. Try one of our oral health products to help you establish a schedule.