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Anterior teeth include the central and lateral incisors and the canine teeth. They make up the six upper and six lower front teeth. The anterior teeth are the teeth that are most visible when a person smiles, and they are also among the first baby teeth to be lost and replaced by permanent adult teeth. They differ from posterior teeth in that they usually have a single root, whereas posterior teeth generally have multiple roots. They are also shaped differently, because they are used for cutting and tearing rather than grinding, which is the function of the posterior teeth.
Deciduous teeth are those that are commonly referred to as "baby," "milk," or "temporary" teeth. These are the teeth that are lost in childhood to be replaced by permanent teeth. All of the anterior teeth are included in the deciduous dental arch and are replaced by permanent adult teeth in childhood. This is not true of the posterior teeth, since some of the posterior teeth are not present in the deciduous arch. The typical deciduous arch contains 20 teeth, while the typical adult dental arch contains 32.
The incisors include the four teeth in the front-most region of the mouth. They are flat or shovel-shaped and are used for cutting food. This contrasts with teeth in the posterior region of the mouth, which feature a broad, flat-shaped biting surface useful for grinding. Incisors have a single root in virtually all cases, and are the first teeth to be lost and replaced during childhood. The deciduous central incisors are typically replaced at six or seven years of age. The lateral incisors are typically replaced at seven or eight years.
Canine teeth may also be referred to as cuspids. These are the teeth popularly known as eye teeth due to their location directly beneath the eye. Canines are spear-shaped, with a pointed tip that is useful in gripping and tearing food. They usually have a single root, although they can have two roots. They are the longest teeth in the mouth, and they have a shape that causes some to call them fangs. Deciduous canine teeth are lost and replaced by permanent adult canines typically between the ages of nine and 12.
Each of the anterior teeth, like the posterior teeth, feature a crown and a root. The crown is the visible portion that has erupted from the gum. The root is the portion that resides under the gum, anchoring the tooth in the jaw. The root accounts for approximately two-thirds of the tooth, while the crown accounts for the other third. This is true of both anterior teeth and posterior teeth.