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How Are Teeth Numbered – And Why Does It Matter?

by Jakeslessor

When you’re speaking to your dentist, she’ll probably refer to one of your teeth numbers — e.g., the first molar or the lower left canine. What are these numbers and why do dentists use them? And how do the numbers relate to the names of the teeth? Here we explain both the names and numbers of teeth, so that you can be sure to share this information with your dentist when you visit.


Why You Need To Know How Teeth Are Numbered

You might not think that knowing how teeth are numbered would be all that important – but it can actually be very helpful, both for dental professionals and for patients. For one thing, it can help streamline treatment planning. If your dentist knows which tooth you’re talking about, they can more easily develop a plan to address the issue. Additionally, if you’re ever in an accident and unable to speak, emergency personnel can use your tooth number chart to help them identify which teeth have been affected. With some basic information, dentists can then estimate what kind of work will need to be done in order to fix any problems. It’s also easier for dentists to find X-rays and other documentation if they know which tooth is being discussed.


A Brief History Of Tooth Numbering

Tooth numbering has a long and complicated history, with different systems used in different parts of the world. In the United States, the most common system is the Universal Numbering System, which was developed in the early 1900s. This system numbers teeth from 1 to 32, starting with the upper right wisdom tooth as #1 and going around clockwise. The tooth number chart below shows how the teeth are numbered in this system. Other ways that people refer to teeth are by quadrant (upper left, lower left, etc.), by quadrant but using letters (A-J), or by muscle attachment points (Lateral Pterygoid muscle attaches to M3).


The Modern Dental Chart

The dental chart is a tool used by dentists to help identify each tooth. The teeth are numbered 1-32, with the upper teeth being numbered 1-16 and the lower teeth being numbered 17-32. The numbers start at the back of the mouth (the wisdom teeth) and move forward. The chart is useful for identifying which tooth needs to be treated, as well as for keeping track of dental work that has been done. The number given to each tooth corresponds to its position in the mouth and then its location from left to right. For example, if someone has an impacted wisdom tooth they might need a root canal or extraction; however if they have an impacted front tooth they may only need braces or orthodontics.


Why Isn’t There Just One Way To Number The Teeth?

The universal tooth numbering system used today is the one that was developed by the Fédération Dentaire Internationale (FDI). However, there are other systems in use in different parts of the world. The most common tooth number chart used in North America is the Universal Numbering System, which was developed by the American Dental Association. In this system, the teeth are numbered from 1 to 32, starting with the maxillary right third molar as #1 and ending with the mandibular left third molar as #32.

Understanding Dental Charts On Your Next Visit

If you’ve ever wondered how your dentist or hygienist keeps track of all your teeth, you’re not alone. It can be confusing to look at a dental chart for the first time.

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