This article aims to guide you through the names of the different teeth and the commonly used dental notations.
Teeth can be central, lateral, cuspid, bi-cuspid or molar.
Cuspids and molars have cuspals, which are the pointed parts of the tooth. Cuspids have one cuspal, bi-cuspids have two cuspals and molars have four cuspals.
Other common names for teeth and groups of teeth include: Incisor – the centrals and laterals, canine – the cuspids, wisdom teeth – the third molars, anterior – the teeth at the front of your mouth (centrals, laterals, cuspids), posterior – the teeth at the back of your mouth (bi-cuspids, molars), primary teeth – baby or milk teeth and secondary teeth – your permanent adult teeth.
In dental notation the mouth is typically split into four corresponding quadrants. Upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right. With each tooth labelled according to name/number and location within one of the four quadrants.
The typical mouth has: Four central teeth (upper left (UL) central, upper right (UR) central, lower left (LL) central and lower right (LR) central). Four lateral teeth (UL lateral, UR lateral, LL lateral, LR lateral). Four cuspid teeth (UL cuspid, UR cuspid, LL cuspid, LR cuspid). Eight bi-cuspid teeth (UL first bi-cuspid, UR first bicuspid, UL second bi-cuspid etc.). And eight or twelve molar teeth, depending if the third molars (wisdom teeth) have erupted (UL first molar, UR first molar, UL second molar etc.).
The mouth can also be labelled numerically using the numerical (Palmer) notation or universal numerical notation, with the numerical notation common in the UK.
With the numerical notation the centrals are 1s, the laterals 2s, the cuspids 3’s, the first bi-cupids 4s, the second bi-cuspids 5s, the first molars 6s, the second molars 7s and the third molars 8s. So you have UL 1 (upper left central), LR 7 (lower right second molar) etc.
With the universal numerical notation each tooth has a number. UR third molar is number 1. The notation then moves along the top of the mouth from right to left assigning each tooth a number. So, at the far end of the mouth, the UL third molar is number 16. The notation then reverses from LL third molar (17), through to LR third molar (32). The universal numerical notation is commonly used in the US.
The numerical notation is also known as the Palmer notation or Zsigmondy system (after the Hungarian dentist Adolf Zsigmondy.