The full scope of your jaw’s function

What’s in a mouth?

What’s in a mouth:

The full function of your teeth

You lacerate and crush food with them. You press your tongue against them to make sounds like “s.” You bare them when you’re happy, and (hopefully) brush them regularly. They define the very shape of your face as you know it.

When you think about the function of teeth, the first thing that comes to mind is eating: chewing, masticating, Fletcherizing. The function of your teeth and jaw go well beyond that, however, and only when something’s wrong do you come to realize how every second of every day is tied to your oral health.

The filters of your voice: how air turns into speech

Your teeth work intimately with your tongue, lips, jaw, and the roof of your mouth to form speech. Your vocal cords are responsible for the volume and pitch of your voice, but only produce airy sound on their own. By forming your teeth, tongue and lips into specific shapes, you funnel that flat sound through and produce unique sounds.

Plug your nose and produce a long hum, with your teeth closed but your lips open so sound can escape. Make a “T” sound without breaking your airflow. You’ll hear and feel the sound stop in your mouth by your tongue’s contact with your teeth. Communication would be limited to the pitch and volume of your voice if you didn’t have the complex components of your mouth to form speech.

Teeth and what you see in the mirror

The first cosmetic role that comes to mind when you think about teeth is probably your smile. Not only the “orderliness” of your teeth defines its quality, but the size or absence of teeth will affect it, too. Your smile is one of your most defining features—it’s an intimate part of how you come to look like “you.” A smile is a social statement, an action noted any time it occurs. How your smile is defined will, in turn, define you.

What’s in a mouth?

The size and length of teeth, as well as their placement or the absence of a tooth, will also affect the shape of your face. Your lips form around your teeth, depending on their size and placement. And, as seen in advanced age, missing teeth can change the length of your face as your jaw compresses and shrinks.

The final morsel: teeth and food

Speech is the ever-present function of teeth you don’t think about, and the connection between teeth and face shape is only something you think about when for some reason it changes. Eating, on the other hand, is the function you relish using your teeth for several times a day. You have four types of teeth, each with a unique purpose:

Incisors: Four incisors on top and four on bottom are used to sever and saw food, typically as it goes into your mouth.

Canines: Four pointy canines pierce and clamp onto food so you can tear it apart.

Premolars: With two pointed cusps on the biting surface, eight pre-molars sit toward the back of your mouth to crush and shred food.

Molars: Molars are wide and flat-surfaced teeth in the back, used to pulverize and grind. Depending if you have wisdom teeth, you will have between eight and a dozen of these.

From the stomping grounds for food intake to the feature that gives your face form and voice meaning, your teeth have many functions. You use them to show joy, and to express pain. Some of you might have even used them to wound someone.

You want to take care of your teeth. When something changes or the need arises, our doctors are here to bring these functions fully back.