When you smile at yourself in the mirror, you can see some of your anterior teeth. There are twelve of these teeth in total: your top and bottom incisors (the two front central teeth, as well as the teeth directly next to them) and your top and bottom canine teeth. Together, the incisors and canines perform specialized functions when we eat, but these highly visible teeth are also prone to dental problems. Here's what you need to know to keep these teeth healthy and stay confident in your smile.
Types of Teeth and Their Functions
According to the National Health Service, an adult can expect to have 32 permanent teeth, evenly divided into 16 in the upper jaw and 16 in the lower jaw. The anterior teeth are the six teeth at the front of the mouth on each jaw. Just behind them sit the premolars, and the molars are located in the very back of the mouth.
The eight incisors are the flat, squarish, sharp teeth located front and center, and we use them for cutting food. The slightly pointed teeth on each side of the incisors are canines, and these help tear food when we bite. After the incisors and canines work to bite or tear food, the premolars and molars chew and grind the food and break it down with help from the tongue and saliva.
Dental Concerns With Anterior Teeth
Gaps in TeethOne common condition that affects the anterior teeth is a gap between the two central incisors. Dental Health Services Victoria explains that a gap between the front teeth often occurs naturally in children, and it may disappear as more teeth grow in. While a gap between the teeth isn't usually cause for concern, it may make a person feel self-conscious about their appearance. A large gap could cause a misaligned bite. If your dental professional notices that your teeth are misaligned, they may suggest using braces or other orthodontic devices to close the gap. If the gap is just a cosmetic concern and the rest of your teeth are unaffected, a dentist may suggest veneers, which are prosthetic covers for the teeth.
Chipped or Fractured TeethA simple fall or accidental blow to the face can chip or fracture incisors or canines. The American Dental Association notes that biting hard foods like nuts or ice cubes, wearing metal mouth jewelry and grinding your teeth can also cause chips or fractures. In addition to making your smile uneven, chipped teeth may cause pain, and the rough edge could be uncomfortable. If the chip is small, your dentist may be able to smooth it so that it's less noticeable. For large chips or fractures, a tooth-colored filling, veneer or crown could be a better solution.
Dental AbrasionPressing too hard while brushing, using a hard-bristled toothbrush or brushing with improper technique can wear down the teeth in a process called dental abrasion, according to a study in the Primary Dental Journal. Abrasion can result in notches where the teeth meet the gums, exposing the protective layer of tooth called the dentin. Teeth with abrasion damage may feel sensitive and pose aesthetic concerns for the patient, especially if the affected teeth are in the front of the mouth. Your dental professional can advise you on tooth restoration options and give you tips on how to prevent further damage to the teeth, such as switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Gum RecessionInadequate oral care can lead to gum disease, and if it isn't treated in its early stages, the condition may worsen. Periodontitis occurs when plaque spreads and grows under the gumline and begins to destroy the tissues and bone that support the teeth, according to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). This form of gum disease can cause the gums to separate, or recede, from the teeth, creating pockets of exposed tooth roots. Receded gums are especially noticeable on anterior teeth. To prevent further damage to the gums and bone and improve the appearance of your smile, your dental professional may recommend a gum graft procedure, notes the AAP.
Keeping Your Front Teeth Healthy
The anterior teeth are the ones everyone sees when you smile, so it's important to keep them in excellent shape. Take it easy when eating hard food and wear a mouth guard when playing sports to avoid chipping or fracturing your teeth. Brushing your teeth twice per day and flossing once per day will help you keep your mouth clean and avoid gum disease. Remember to visit your dentist twice a year for checkups so they can spot any signs of dental problems and help you get the treatment you need.