Unlike pythons and pelicans, humans cannot swallow meals in one big gulp. Food must be broken down into smaller pieces before it can be swallowed. The first process of digestion is the chewing of food material by cutting, tearing and shearing it. This happens in the mouth with the help of teeth, which are moved around using jaw muscles and digestion is aided along with saliva supplied by salivary glands, for the purpose of lubrication.
Types of Teeth in Humans
Coming to human teeth, we have 32 pieces of the dental toolkit – this is an upgrade from a 20 piece “milk teeth” version. If you go to a mirror and bare all your teeth at it, you will notice that teeth are in different shapes. Their positioning is also quite important to the way one chews food. The image below illustrates the parts of the mouth – buccal cavity.
There are four different types of teeth in the mouth. Their functions have been briefly described below.
- Incisors are present at the front of the mouth with a sharp biting surface. They are used for cutting food into small chewable pieces.
- Canines are situated at the ‘corners’ of the dental arches. They have a sharp, pointed biting surface. Their function is to grip and tear food.
- Premolars do not have a sharp biting surface like the incisors and canines. They instead have a flat biting surface having the function to tear and crush food.
- Molars are the largest among all types. They have a large and flat biting surface. Their function is to chew, crush and grind food.
Human beings eat food all through their lives for their survival. To withstand their prolonged use throughout the years of chewing, teeth must be really hard and firmly anchored. The white, exposed part of the tooth is covered by enamel layer. This is the body’s hardest material. Enamel is incredibly strong yet it is lifeless.
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