Why Do Humans Have Canine Teeth?

Blonde woman wears a turtle neck as she smiles showing her canine teeth in front of a waterfall

At Palos Heights Family Dental, we love educating our patients on not only the proper ways to care for their teeth, but also about the functions and roles of their different types of teeth. Here, we will focus specifically on our canine teeth. But first, a lesson in your mouth’s anatomy!

The Human Mouth

Adult humans have 28-32 teeth that serve various functions. Some teeth are designed for gripping, biting and tearing, and others (like your molars) for chewing and grinding. Your wisdom teeth, or “third molars”, are an evolutionary memento from our ancestors’ fibrous, coarse diets that required extensive mastication. Although you might think that the teeth we want to talk about today, the canines, look much more suited to the mouths of animals, like lions, and tigers, and bears, our canine teeth actually perform a very important dietary function!

Closeup of a striped orange, white, and black tiger barring its fangs while sticking its tongue out

Canine Teeth Explained

Humans have four canine teeth: two on the top, and two on the bottom. These teeth have a sharp, pointed biting surface and are located near the corners of your dental arches between your incisors and bicuspids. Temporary canine teeth erupt around 16-23 months, and adult canine teeth replace them between 9-12 years old. In other meat-eating animals, canines are referred to as cuspids, fangs, or eye-teeth. Although our diets have certainly evolved from that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, modern humans still use canine teeth to grip and tear food, just like our ancestors did. Without the pointed surface of your canines, you’d have a very difficult time biting into a sandwich or an apple!

Protect the Integrity of All Your Teeth!

Like any other tooth, it is important to protect and maintain the health of your canines. Brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes each time, brush your tongue every day, floss daily, and visit our office every six months for cleanings and exams with our expert dentists. By practicing superb preventive care habits, you’ll promote healthy teeth and gums that will last a lifetime! Ask us additional questions about your different types of teeth or how to care for them by contacting us today.

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Why Do Humans Have Canine Teeth? was last modified: June 28th, 2018 by Palos Heights Family Dental