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What Are The Five Surfaces of A Tooth?

Most adults have 32 teeth in their mouths. The wisdom tooth is usually counted as tooth number 1. The mouth is divided into four quadrants, known as upper left, upper right, lower left and lower right. The teeth in our mouth are also separated into the back and the front. At the back area, known as posterior, the teeth consist of molars and pre=molars or bicuspids. The front teeth are known as anterior teeth and consist of incisors and cuspids or canines. The tooth is made up of different types of surfaces and today we take a look at our tooth surfaces to understand the anatomy of a tooth better.

Understanding Teeth Grouping

In order to understand more about tooth surfaces, it is first and foremost necessary to understand that teeth are broadly divided into three groups in order to identify the tooth as per its location in the mouth. These three broad groups include:

Mandibular or maxillary: Each individual has two jaws. The maxillary refers to the upper jaw and the mandibular is the lower jaw. The teeth which are present in these jaws are referred to as being either mandibular teeth or maxillary teeth.

Right or Left: If you divide both the jaws from the middle from front to the back, you will get upper and lower left sections and upper and lower right sections. Each of these sections will represent 1/4th of each of the upper and lower jaw. Each section is known as a quadrant. So for example, if you are referring to a tooth that is located to the left of the dividing line in the upper arch, it will be known as part of the maxillary left quadrant.

Anteriors or posteriors: The anterior teeth refer to the cuspids and incisors and posteriors refer to the bicuspids and molars. Out of 32 natural teeth in an adult, each jaw contains 16 teeth out of which there are 6 anterior and 10 posteriors. 3 anterior and 5 posterior teeth are present in one quadrant.

What Are The Five Surfaces of A Tooth?

What Are The Five Surfaces of A Tooth?

If you have a better understanding of the different surfaces of the different types of teeth in your mouth, then it helps you to become more aware of how you can better your dental hygiene and health. Knowing about tooth surfaces will also help you understand how to reach all the surfaces of your teeth during your daily brushing and flossing schedule.

To begin with, there are five surfaces in each tooth. The surfaces depend on whether the tooth is positioned in the front or in the back. These surfaces include:

  • A tooth has 2 proximal surfaces. One is oriented towards the middle of the dental arch and the other is oriented facing away from the middle of the dental arch.
  • Distal: This is the proximal surface that is positioned away from the middle of the dental arch.
  • Mesial: This is the primal surface that is located closest to the middle of the dental arch.
  • Coming to the facial, this is the surface of the tooth that is facing towards the cheeks or the lips. Going further into the specifics of the facial surfaces, we use terms like buccal and labial.
  • Buccal: This is the surface of a posterior tooth which is facing towards the cheek.
  • Labial: This is the surface of an anterior tooth which is facing towards the lips.
  • Coming to the lingual surface, it is the surface of a tooth that faces towards the tongue. This is comprised of:
  • Incisal: This is the cutting edge of an anterior tooth.
  • Occlusal: This is known as the chewing surface of the posterior teeth.
  • Last, but not the least, there are also pits and grooves that are small grooves and indentations present in your teeth.

Now let us look at each surface individually.

Buccal and Lingual Surfaces

These surfaces are found on the cheek and tongue side of your teeth. Buccal is the cheek-side of your teeth and the surface is generally smooth. The exception to this rule is the lower molars, where you may also find buccal pits.

The lingual surface refers to the tongue-side of your teeth and is also generally smooth. The exception to this is the upper molars that may also have lingual grooves that end in a pit. Some of your upper front teeth may also have some lingual pits.

Occlusal and Incisal Surfaces

These surfaces are typically present on the biting side of your teeth. All the molars and premolars have grooves and pits on the occlusal surfaces. Occlusal means biting. These biting surfaces also contain raised areas, known as tooth cusps.

Canines are also referred to as cuspids because they are having one cusp each. Premolars, on the other hand, are known as bicuspids because they have two cusps each. Molars are known to have 4 to 5 cusps each. Cusps of your molars and premolars surround the grooves and pits present on these teeth.

Coming to the incisal surfaces, these are the biting surfaces of your front teeth and may also have a hint of cusp development. However, the incisal edges generally form without grooves and pits, making it easier to clean them.


Understand that you will need to focus on the surfaces which have grooves and pits. Floss every day at least once to get the plaque out of the spaces between the teeth. Keeping this information about the tooth surfaces in your mind will help improve your dental health.

Also Read:


  1. Bartlett, D.W., Lussi, A., West, N.X., Bouchard, P., Sanz, M. and Bourgeois, D., 2013. Prevalence of tooth wear on buccal and lingual surfaces and possible risk factors in young European adults. Journal of dentistry, 41(11), pp.1007-1013.
  2. Brosh, T., Strouthou, S. and Sarne, O., 2005. Effects of buccal versus lingual surfaces, enamel conditioning procedures and storage duration on brackets debonding characteristics. Journal of dentistry, 33(2), pp.99-105.
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 8, 2022

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