Role of Your Premolars

Why you need your premolars but not your wisdom teeth

Just as their name indicates, premolars are located just before the molars in the human mouth. These teeth 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.

A dentist examining a boy's teeth
Glow Wellness / Getty Images

The Basics

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 around the age of 10–11 years old and the second premolar usually comes in around the age of 10–12 years old.

Anatomy

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 21 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 backward to be chewed.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do people get their premolar teeth removed?

    Some people get their premolar teeth removed due to malocclusion, or when the teeth do not align properly. Malocclusion can be influenced by tooth decay, dental trauma, genetics, and a number of dental diseases. This does not necessarily mean that all eight premolar teeth need to be removed to solve malocclusion or other related dental issues. It’s possible that the repair or removal of two premolar teeth can act as effective treatment.

  • When do the permanent teeth usually erupt?

    The permanent teeth erupt at different times during adolescence. For instance, the upper teeth’s first two premolars (first bicuspids) usually erupt at 10 or 11 years old. The first two premolars in the lower teeth erupt between 10 and 12 years old. In many cases, the final permanent teeth to erupt are the wisdom teeth, which usually happens between 17 to 21 years old. This is why wisdom tooth removal often takes place at these ages.

  • What are tooth implants made of?

    Tooth implants are usually made of titanium, but there are also different implants made from cobalt, zirconium oxide, and ceramic materials. When titanium is used for tooth implants, they can either consist of pure titanium (made exclusively from titanium) or a titanium alloy (consists of titanium as well as one or more other types of metal).

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Renton T, Wilson NH. Problems with erupting wisdom teeth: signs, symptoms, and management. Br J Gen Pract. 2016;66(649):e606-608. doi:10.3399/bjgp16X686509

  3. Zou J, Meng M, Law CS, Rao Y, Zhou X. Common dental diseases in children and malocclusionInt J Oral Sci. 2018;10(1):7. doi:10.1038/s41368-018-0012-3

  4. Food and Drug Administration. Dental implants: what you should know.

  5. Osman RB, Swain MV. A critical review of dental implant materials with an emphasis on titanium versus zirconiaMaterials (Basel). 2015;8(3):932-958. doi:10.3390/ma8030932

By Shawn Watson
Shawn Watson is an orthodontic dental assistant and writer with over 10 years of experience working in the field of dentistry.