Your Largest Teeth
Used for grinding food, molars are the teeth found in the back of your mouth and are usually the final teeth to erupt. Altogether, we have 12 molars, with six molars in each jaw, and three on each side.
Molars are definitely the largest teeth in your mouth! Unlike your front teeth, which are sharp and pointy for biting, your molars have rounded cusps for chewing. Each molar uses two to three roots to anchor itself to your jawbone and keep this strong tooth in place.
Easy as 1, 2, 3
There are three different types of molars:
First Molars -- The first molars are often called six-year molars, because of the age you are when the permanent, or adult, molars erupt.
Second Molars -- Likewise, these are called 12-year molars. You get the picture! Both first and second molars come in the form of primary and secondary teeth. Once your baby teeth fall out, they will be replaced with permanent first and second molars.
Third Molars -- The third molars, or wisdom teeth, are the final molars to come in. You'll probably start to see wisdom teeth erupt between the ages of 17-21. They're called wisdom teeth because by the time they erupt, we're supposed to be old enough to have wisdom. Considering most third molars erupt during the late teens, we think they must have been given this title when people had a shorter lifespan!
If you hear your dentist refer to your tooth as a "maxillary first molar" or "mandibular second molar," he's referencing the location of each molar in your mouth. As with any of your teeth, the molars located in your upper jaw are known as maxillary molars. In the lower jaw, they're called mandibular molars.
How Wise Are You?
Not everyone has their third molars -- not that we necessarily need them. Wisdom teeth may have benefited cavemen, but not us! Third molars were once used for chewing tough food. But back in those times, there was plenty of room in people's mouths for the final set of molars because those that came before usually fell out from tooth decay! Thanks to modern times, we keep our teeth longer and may not even need our third molars.
Take a look in the mirror. Do you see all three molars on each side of your jaw? If you're over the age of 21 and you only have two, then your wisdom teeth may be impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth can be quite painful and may cause various dental problems. They are usually removed via oral surgery.
The only way to know for sure if your wisdom tooth could cause problems is to see a dentist for a proper diagnosis. A dentist will use X-rays to distinguish any problems with your molar teeth and can prescribe the right dental treatment for you.
On That Note…
It's important to take care of your molars! Food can easily get stuck between the cusps and sides of your molar teeth, so be sure to brush and floss regularly. And since molars are so large, a tooth filling may not suffice when it comes to treating major cavities, leaving your dentist to repair your molar with a dental crown or dental bridge. If you care about keeping your molars strong, practice excellent oral hygiene and visit the dentist regularly!