The Five Kinds of Tooth Surfaces and How to Clean Each One

Posted on: October 22, 2018

Dental hygiene is all about protecting the gums and the tooth surface. We have different types of teeth in our mouths, and each has five different surfaces, with different kinds of attention needs. Some are easily cleaned with a toothbrush, while others are best cleaned by flossing. By learning about teeth surfaces, we can learn how to reach and clean even the most distant parts of our teeth.

How a tooth surface is categorized

A tooth has five surfaces: one that faces the inner lip or cheek, one that faces the tongue, the chewing surface and the two that are next to other teeth.

The surface of a tooth is named depending on the location of the tooth, and teeth are named according to their location in the mouth.

1. The front (anterior) teeth

The teeth that a person shows when they smile are commonly referred to as the front teeth. They are also known as the anterior teeth. There are 12 of them: The four fang-like teeth are called canines, while the eight centermost teeth are called incisors.

The five surfaces of the anterior teeth are named as follows:

  • The labial surface is visible to the world; teeth whitening and veneers are used to enhance this surface
  • The lingual surface is the back of the anterior tooth; it faces the tongue
  • The mesial surface is the side of the tooth that faces the center of the mouth
  • The distal surface is the side of the tooth closest to the back of the jaw
  • The incisal surface is used for biting; in the front teeth, this biting surface is quite smooth and easily cleaned

The mesial and distal surfaces are best cleaned by flossing and mouth rinse, while the lingual and labial surfaces are easily cleaned by a toothbrush.

2. The back (posterior) teeth

They are the molars and pre-molars. The back teeth are used for chewing and grinding and are not as visible as the anterior teeth. Posterior teeth also have five surfaces:

  • The buccal surface is the part of the back tooth that faces the inner cheek
  • The lingual surface is the part of the back tooth that faces the tongue
  • The mesial surface of the posterior tooth faces the center of the mouth
  • The distal surface faces the very back of the jaw

The chewing surface of the back teeth is called the occlusal surface. It is rough and has multiple cusps, ridges and troughs. The rough nature of this surface allows food particles and plaque to become lodged in all its nooks and crannies.

This is why it is important to take extra care when cleaning the chewing surfaces of the molars and pre-molars

The mesial and distal surfaces of the back teeth are harder to reach than those of the front teeth. So, extra time and care should be taken when brushing and flossing the posterior teeth, especially the wisdom teeth.

Reach every surface of every tooth

Cleaning the front teeth is easy compared to cleaning wisdom teeth. But awareness of all the teeth's surfaces will equip you with the knowledge you need to maintain dental hygiene routines that tend to every tooth in your mouth.

Remember, routine dental checkups are a great opportunity to find out how well you clean all five surfaces of every tooth. Your dentist will be happy to let you know and give you pointers if you need any.

Talk to one of our dentists to learn more about teeth surfaces.

Let's get started …

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Sandefer Premier Dental, request an appointment in our Denham Springs dental office here: Or call us at (225) 663-1793.

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