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Dental formulas, what are they? What do the numbers and letters in the dental formulary mean?

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Teeth are bony formations located in the human oral cavity, designed for the mechanical processing of food. In addition to biting and grinding food, teeth are involved in the formation of sounds. Good dental health is essential for a good quality of life. In this article, we will talk about the structure and number of teeth, as well as look at a concept such as dental formula.

Structure and number of teeth in adults and children

As we have already said, teeth are bony formations. There are three main divisions in their structure:

  • The crown is the part that protrudes into the oral cavity;
  • Neck – the narrowed transitional section surrounded by the gingiva;
  • Root – the part of the tooth located inside the jawbone.

In humans, it is customary to distinguish between four main groups of dental elements:

  • Molars;
  • Premolars;
  • Fangs;
  • Incisors.

The permanent bite has a total of 32 teeth: 12 molars, 8 premolars, 4 canines, and 8 incisors. However, sometimes the third molars, also called wisdom teeth, do not erupt in full or are absent altogether.

Children each have 10 teeth on their upper and lower jaws – 4 incisors, 2 canines, and 4 molars.

As far as the histological structure is concerned, teeth consist of enamel, which is the hardest tissue covering the crown, dentin, which accounts for the bulk of the tooth, and cementum, which covers the dental root. The cavity of the tooth is filled with loose connective tissue – pulp containing blood and lymph vessels, nerve fibers.

Basic variants of the dental formula

Basic variants of dental formula

Many people have heard such a term as a dental formula at least once in their lives. A dental formula is a special scheme that records the order of the teeth. It is used to show the condition of a person’s dental system as clearly as possible. Also, the dental formula can be used to assess the level of biological maturity in infants and young children, which was proved by scientists from Saratov State Medical University named after V.I. Razumovsky in the work published in 2016.

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To date, there are several variations of the dental formula.

One of them is the square-digit one. In this case, an adult’s dental formula is written in Arabic numerals, a child’s – in Roman numerals. Both dentitions are divided in half, resulting in four segments. Each of the segments contains 8 (permanent bite) or 5 (temporary bite) teeth, which are numbered from the center to the side.

Thus, the complete upper or lower dentition of an adult would look like – 8765432112345678. In a child, each of the segments may be written as follows: V IV III II I.

In addition, a universal dental formula is often used. According to it, teeth are assigned the following designations:

  • Molars are M (adult) and m (child);
  • Premolars are R;
  • Fangs – C (adult) and c (child);
  • The incisors are I (adult) and i (child).

In addition to the letter designation, the teeth are numbered according to their location in Arabic numerals, such as M3 or P2.

A complete adult dental formula would look like this: M3 M2 M1 P2 P1 C I2 I1 I1 I2 C P1 P2 M1 M2 M3.

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There are other schemes for recording dental formulas, but above we have cited two of the most popular.

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