Oral anatomy refers to the structure, function, identity, and developmental processes which work to constitute human teeth. Oral anatomy is all about how to classify the teeth, the processes by which they form and change, and how they relate to the other teeth in the mouth.
Any work in the field requires knowledge of oral anatomy, and for a dental assistant, this is no different. The scope of a dental assistant’s work might involve the application of sealants, administering preliminary impressions of teeth for study models, polishing of the teeth, recording of clients’ data, and more, all of which necessitate an understanding of oral anatomy. Dental assistants also might advise the client on best practices for maintaining or improving the health of their teeth. If you’re considering a career as an intra oral dental assistant, keep reading for a brief overview of what the study of oral anatomy entails.
The Formation of Teeth Explained for Students in Dental Assistant Training
Our teeth begin forming in utero, at around the 14-week period. This first dentition, or arrangement of teeth, are called the primary, or deciduous dentition, which finish forming at around three years of age. The fetal development period is a vital part of our oral health, as it is during this time that four vital tissues in our teeth—the enamel, dentin, cementum, and periodontium—begin to develop. These tissues must develop properly in order to ensure good oral health for the rest of a person’s life.
At around six years of age begins the mixed dentition period, in which the first permanent, or succedaneous teeth, start to grow in, lasting until the last of the deciduous teeth have fallen out, anywhere from 6-12 years of age. Here begins the permanent dentition period, marked by the growth of one’s first permanent molars and permanent incisors. With the emergence of the third molars, the permanent dentition period is complete. This can happen anywhere between the ages of 18-25. 32 teeth marks a complete set, unless there are teeth missing congenitally.
Naming the Teeth
Learning about tooth numbering systems is a vital part of dental assistant training. Teeth are numbered based on where they are located on the jaw. Those on the lower jaw, the mandibular, are numbered from K-T, starting with the left mandibular second molar. On the upper jaw, the maxillar, the maxillary teeth are numbered from A-J, starting with the right second molar. Split evenly between both sets of teeth are the eight incisors, used mostly for chewing food. Separating the incisors from the molars are the canine teeth, of which there are two on both the maxillary and mandibular sets. On each set of teeth are the first, second, and third molars, used primarily to grind food. The third molars are often referred to as wisdom teeth. When talking to clients about third molars after intra oral dental assistant training, it might be a good idea to refer to them as wisdom teeth, as clients might be more familiar with that term.
Structure of the Tooth
Each tooth has two portions: a crown and a root. The root portion is anchored to the jaw’s bony process, ensuring that the teeth are kept in their relative positions within the dental arch. The alveolar process is the component of the jaw that provides support for the teeth. The crown and root portions are coated in different tooth tissues, the crown with enamel and the root with cementum. The junction of the crown and root is called the cementoenamel junction.
Different surfaces of the teeth have different functions, depending on what the teeth are used for. The facial surfaces of the teeth are those facing the cheeks, while the lingual surfaces are located on the side nearest the tongue. Premolars and molars, or the posterior teeth, have occlusal surfaces, meant to aid with chewing, while incisors and canines have incisal surfaces to serve the same function. The occlusal surfaces on both the posterior teeth and the canines have elevations called cusps.
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