Teeth Names & Numbers
You are probably well aware that every tooth in your mouth has a name, but did you also know each one has a number? While most of the general public has no reason to know the numbers of your teeth, as a orthodontics or jaw surgery patient knowing the numbers of teeth can actually be quite valuable. If you need to discuss a problem with a specific tooth with your dentist, oral surgeon, or orthodontist over the phone or by email, knowing the name and/or number of a specific tooth can make communication much easier. This page will cover the common names used by all medical professionals, as well as the number systems used by orthodontists, dentists, and oral surgeons.
Of course there is one small problem. In the United States, oral surgeons and orthodontists use two completely different numbering systems. Orthodontists actually seem to be in the minority, as my dentist, periodontist, and oral surgeon all use the same system while the orthodontist was the only one who used a different system. The system used by dentists and oral surgeons in the United States is called the universal numbering system, while the orthodontists use Palmer notation. I'll start now with the names of your teeth that everyone can agree on.
The Names of your Teeth
The first important term to know is that your upper jaw is called the maxilla, while the lower jaw is called the mandible. When referring to a tooth on your upper jaw, you should call it a maxillary tooth, while a tooth on the bottom jaw is referred to as a mandibular tooth. The names for the teeth on the maxilla and mandible are otherwise mirrored. An easy chart is seen blow.
I know the chart seems fairly self-explanatory, but I'll offer a written explanation as well. The adult human mouth has 32 teeth, though many have their 4 wisdom teeth removed. The wisdom teeth, which are also called the 3rd Molars, are the rearmost teeth in the mouth. On each side of each jaw there are then 2 more molars and 2 more bicuspids. The bicuspids are sometimes also referred to as premolars, and I've seen dental health professionals use both terms. A single canine and 2 incisors on each side make up the front of your mouth. Was this a pointless rehash from elementary school? OK then, moving on to the numbers.
Dentist and Oral Surgeon (Universal) Numbering System
The Universal numbering system is a very straightforward way to number the 32 teeth in the adult mouth, as it simply starts at 1 and ends at 32. The teeth are numbered in sequence, with the starting number one being the upper right 3rd molar (wisdom tooth). The numbering progresses across the upper jaw from right to left, such that the tooth in front of the upper right 3rd molar where you started is 2, the middle teeth on your upper jaw are 8 and 9, and your upper left 3rd molar is number 16. The numbering proceeds to the bottom jaw now to the tooth directly below, the lower left 3rd molar, which is 17. The numbers then increase going left to right this time until the lower right 3rd molar is number 32.
But what if you don't have wisdom teeth? Does this mean your upper right 2nd molar is #1 instead of your 3rd molar? No, it does not. Even with your wisdom teeth extracted, the wisdom teeth are still referred to by their numbers (1, 16, 17, 32). In this case your rearmost molar (2nd molar) is still 2, and when you get to the jump on the left side of your mouth from upper to lower jaw, the numbering simply goes ...14-15-18-19... and so on.
The diagram below shows everything I have just described. Just be aware that in this diagram the 3rd molars are present, and that the diagram depicts an open jaw looking at you. Remember the numbering starts on your upper right side, with left and right always from the patient's perspective, even though the charts below are from the perspective of someone else looking into your mouth.
Orthodontist (Palmer) Notation
Palmer notation divides the mouth into four quadrants, with the teeth in each quadrant numbered 1 to 8. The quadrants divide your mouth into your upper and lower jaw, and also your left side and your right side. The quadrants then are simply upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left. In each quadrant the numbering starts at the center of the mouth and moves back, such that the central incisors (your front teeth) are all number 1 and the 3rd molar is number 8. The beauty of this system is that each tooth of the same name also has the same number. All central incisors are 1, all canines are 3, etc. Now to refer to a specific tooth, you simply state its quadrant, and then the number. For example, the right maxillary 3rd molar is called "upper right 8", and the left mandibular canine is "lower left 3". A Palmer notation diagram is probably more helpful. As with the universal numbering system diagram, this is shown as a mouth opening at you, not a mouth from your perspective.
If you want to know my personal opinion on the two numbering systems, I prefer Palmer notation. Since every tooth name has the same tooth number, it makes it very hard to forget the numbers of teeth, while in the universal system I often have to start counting forwards or backwards from the nearest 3rd molar to come up with the number of a tooth.
Here is one more chart to summarize and compare the teeth names and numbering systems. To save space, Upper right is UR, lower left LL and so forth.
If you are still confused, I apologize. Here is one final chart that unlike the above diagrams is from your perspective, so right is right and left is left.
Last update: 9/27/13
Copyright 2013 ortho-experience.com
Copyright 2013 ortho-experience.com