three friends laughing on a bridge
Badge field

All About Posterior Teeth

Published date field Last Updated:
Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

The teeth in the back of your mouth are known among dental professionals as the posterior teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) defines "posterior" as referring to the teeth and tissues toward the back of the mouth. These teeth include the premolars and molars. Unlike your front teeth‚ also known as anterior teeth‚ people won't usually see the teeth in the back of your mouth when you smile. However, that doesn't mean that they are any less important to care for. Learn more about how to identify your posterior teeth, which potential dental issues are related to these teeth and how best to care for them.

What Are Posterior Teeth?

While dental professionals often use numbers to identify different teeth in the mouth, an easier way for you to identify your posterior teeth is based on features. These teeth, which include your molars and premolars, have flatter chewing surfaces. According to the Mayo Clinic, they also have more pits, fissures and grooves compared with smoother-surfaced anterior teeth. These features make the back teeth ideal for chewing.

Dental Concerns With Back Teeth

The teeth in the back of your mouth are prone to certain dental conditions, which is why maintaining excellent oral hygiene is so important. Here are some potential issues to be mindful of.

  • Tooth Decay

    It makes sense that the back teeth are more likely to get cavities, as the Mayo Clinic explains. Food particles can easily get trapped in pits and fissures. Plus, thoroughly brushing the back teeth yourself can be a challenge. The shape and placement of these teeth is a recipe for higher risk of tooth decay.
  • Misalignment

    Misaligned teeth can be the result of many different issues. Missing teeth or jaws that are too small for all the teeth to fit can contribute to crooked and crowded teeth, as the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) explains. The AAO also notes that genetic predisposition can sometimes play a role in crossbites and misalignment. Issues such as crowding, spacing and crossbites can affect the anterior or posterior teeth.
  • Wisdom Tooth Impaction

    Wisdom teeth are the last of the back teeth to erupt from the gums. According to the Mayo Clinic, if there isn't room for them to come in, they may only partially erupt. This is known as partial impaction. Alternatively, they may grow at an incorrect angle and never erupt through the gums, which is known as full impaction. This can lead to swelling, pain and the need for wisdom teeth removal.

Maintaining Healthy Posterior Teeth

While back teeth are at higher risk for certain issues, a strong oral health care routine and regular dental check-ups can keep them healthy. To protect higher-risk teeth from decay, your dentist may recommend dental sealants. Additionally, if you have any crowding or potential issues with your wisdom teeth, your dentist will be able to recommend orthodontics, wisdom teeth removal or a combination of both.

Keeping your mouth in good shape means taking care of all your teeth, even the ones that are hard to see. Be sure to visit your dentist twice a year, and brush and floss regularly to keep your back teeth healthy and strong!

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

paper airplane

Want more tips and offers sent directly to your inbox?

Sign up now

Mobile Top Image
Was this article helpful?

Thank you for submitting your feedback!

If you’d like a response, Contact Us.

Mobile Bottom Image