The Anatomy & Position of a Tooth

Take a look at the image below to understand the basic anatomy of a tooth. 



There are also different surfaces of the teeth, and specific terminology used to address different areas and places on a patient’s teeth. Pay close attention to these vocabulary words. It would be a great idea to write them down on flashcards and memorize them. This way, patient charts, and information will be easy to understand and far less confusing to navigate. 




  • MESIAL – closest to the midline
  • DISTAL – farthest from the midline 
  • BUCCAL / LABIAL – closest to cheek/lip 
  • PALATAL / LINGUAL – closet to palate / tongue
  • INCISAL – cutting/biting surface




  • MESIAL – closest to the midline
  • DISTAL – farthest from the midline 
  • BUCCAL – closest to cheek 
  • LINGUAL – closest to tongue 
  • OCCLUSAL – biting surface








Teeth have formal names, as well as numeral identification numbers. There are 20 teeth in the primary (child) detention, and 32 teeth in the permanent dentition. Here are some examples of a tooth chart, showing the number for each tooth. Eventually, these will be like a second language for you. It can be tricky at first. If you need to, you can draw your own illustration showing the numbers for each tooth, or print one off and keep it while you still are in the process of getting it down.



Child detention is a bit different than adult detention, as you are already aware. Children will gain certain teeth at certain ages as they grow. Here’s a chart showing when each tooth will come in. 



The mouth is also broken down into “quadrants”, or four different sections depending on the location. Take a look at the figure below to understand quadrants.



Lastly, tooth identification itself. Each tooth can be classified as an incisor, cuspid/canine, premolar, or molar. There are certain characteristics for each of these teeth. 



While this information can seem overwhelming to somebody who is entirely new to the dental field, do not fret! You will be surprised at how easy it will be to have this information memorized as you advance in your position. While you are still learning and adapting to the field, there is no shame in keeping a chart or flash cards handy to help you get the hang of the terminology and anatomy! Feel free to print these pictures out, or to make your own.