What Is a Premolar?

Why You Need Your Premolars But Not Your Wisdom Teeth

The upper and lower premolars are represented in yellow and blue
The upper and lower premolars are represented in yellow and blue. Credit: Photo © A.D.A.M.

Just as their name indicates, premolars are located just before the molars in the human mouth. These teeth as are also known as bicuspids. The premolars are considered transitional teeth, as they work to guide food from the cuspids near the front of the mouth back to the molars near the rear of the mouth for chewing. 

The Basics of the Human Premolar 

Human beings typically have eight total premolars.

There are two premolars in each of the four dental quadrants of the mouth. Although the exact age at the time of arrival varies, the first premolar usually arrives right around the age of nine years old. The second premolar usually follows a year later around the age of ten years old. 

Anatomy of a Premolar

The anatomy of a premolar is similar to that of the first and second molars, although they are considerably smaller in comparison. Premolars have one to two roots firmly implanted in the bone for stabilization.

Their Similarities to Molars

Premolars are very similar to molars in terms of anatomy and structure. However, unlike premolars, adults are predisposed to have 12 total molars, while they only have eight premolars. The molars are located the furthest away from the front teeth of all of the teeth, as they are stationed in the back of the mouth next to the cheek. Molars erupt earlier than premolars also, as the first one commonly emerges in the mouth around the age of six years old.

There is a decent gap of time between the appearance of the first and second molars, as the second molar typically doesn’t emerge until the age of 12 or 13.

Wisdom Teeth

The third molar is arguably the most well-known of the molars. Most people refer to a third molar as a wisdom tooth. Wisdom teeth typically erupt between the ages of 17 and 25 years old.

They are often removed from the mouth, as there is often not enough space to accommodate them, and thus they can cause a variety of dental issues for the gums and other teeth. As the wisdom teeth emerge they often push other teeth out of the way, altering the alignment of the teeth. 

How Premolars and Molars Work Together

Molars are the largest of all of the teeth in the mouth. Their size is necessary as they are used to grind food into small pieces so that it is easily swallowed, and not choked on. The molars are designed and intended to sustain the great force that is generated from the chewing, clenching, and grinding that occurs at the site of the molars. The premolars are located directly in front of the molars and are used to pass food backwards to be chewed. 

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