What is Special About Front Teeth?

December 2009

By: Dr. Scott R. Harden

Front teeth are very important to all of us. In fact, many people are quick to decide on having their back teeth extracted, but go to great lengths to keep their front teeth. Is a smile that important? Apparently it is, as I have observed over two decades.

“The best thing I ever did was to get receive my cosmetic smile makeover”. As she entered the Historical Society function at the Old Mill in Canton last week, Joanne’s glow and warmth clearly reflected her newfound confidence and eager desire to flash her beautiful smile. In her fifties, she stated her confidence soared and was far more liberating than any new outfit or hairstyle. And besides, she went on, “those things are only temporary anyway. My new smile was an investment in myself and my self worth”.

Esthetics. So front teeth clearly reflect a social standard that is important to everyone. There are many great old sayings about smiles. Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful. If you see a friend without a smile; give him one of yours. A smile improves the value of your face. I appreciate these sayings because they represent the happy times in life. And dentistry can certainly help assure a persons smile by keeping their front teeth healthy, whiter, and straighter. Nice front teeth don’t cause you to smile but they certainly give you every excuse to. Front teeth, therefore, are special because they provide all of us the smile we need to interact socially with others.
Relationship of Front Teeth. Most everyone has heard the term “Overbite”. An overbite refers specifically to how far your top front teeth overlap the lower front teeth, from 0% to 100% or even more. A 100% overbite, also called a “deep bite”, means your lower teeth are not visible when biting together. “Overjet” is the term used to describe how much space exists between your lower teeth and upper teeth when you bite together, as measured horizontally. This is typical in people with small lower jaws compared to their upper jaw. Overbite and Overjet affects how you eat, how you speak and how your teeth function together. These are very important to measure in children for potential orthodontic care and for adults as well.

Chewing. Front teeth are important for biting into things like apples or sandwiches. Our front teeth are called incisors because they “incise” food and perform a unique function different from our back teeth.

Phonetics. Sounding out words. This is a fundamental aspect of speech and many sounds are performed by the interaction between your front teeth providing a stopping place for your tongue and lips. To form an F-sound or V-sound means your lower lip must contact your upper front teeth. Th-sound requires your tongue to heavily contact your upper front teeth. L-sounds and N-sounds also require your tongue to contact the back of your upper front teeth.

Functional Support. Front teeth function in vertical and horizontal directions. Front teeth lean forward normally at a slight angle and this causes a very complex interaction when biting and chewing. Front teeth are important because they act as the steering wheel when you chew separating your back teeth apart ideally both in forward and lateral motions. They also provide a vertical stop when biting together that really helps take pressure off your back teeth and avoids back tooth wear.

Front teeth are very special in many ways to our every day life. Speaking, smiling, eating, and our overall confidence all stem from our front teeth. Dentistry helps ensure healthy, white front teeth for many people and lets all of us have the opportunity to flash our beautiful smile and improve the quality of our face and our lives.