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Welcome to, the online dental resource for Thumb Sucker.

Simply click on Thumb Sucker or use our A-Z Index.
The A-Z Index is extremely easy to use if you already know the name of the subject you are looking for.

Simplyteeth is a unique dental website. It is a complete dental reference from Thumb Sucker, to teeth and gums, normal and abnormal, healthy and unhealthy. Dental information on Thumb Sucker and other subjects is presented to the public for the first time that takes the patient into the world of dentistry

The Simplyteeth site has been written in plain English, using a question-and-answer format, which is easy to read and understand.

All technical terms or unusual words to do with Thumb Sucker are highlighted in green. These are linked to our Online Dental Dictionary. Simply click on one of the green words you are not sure of and the definition will pop-up onto the screen.

Most of us turn to the dentist when we have toothache, but we should be partners with our dentist in preventing dental problems. This guide will tell you how to take care of your teeth every day. It will explain a system of oral hygiene to be practised at home (and checked regularly by the dentist) designed to keep your mouth healthy.

Professional and Academic Dentists (practitioners and professors) from Britain and the United States of America have contributed comprehensive dental information including Thumb Sucker, photographs and graphics. The information is reliable and is provided by the most reputable sources.  

To contact Simplyteeth by e-mail for further information on Thumb Sucker please fill in our enquiry form.

Using the site

Is the site easy to use?

Yes, it is. A great deal of thought has gone into the design of the Simplyteeth site. Our aim is to make the site accessible and easy to use. There are two main areas: Adult and Adolescent Dentistry, and Children's Dentistry. All the subjects are accessible from the Adult, Child or Index sections.

Finding the answers to your questions is as simple as 1,2,3. Once you have selected the Adult and Adolescent Dentistry, or the Children's Dentistry section, simply:

1 - click on a category,
2 - click on a section,
3 - click on a question, and you will be taken to the answer.

Alternatively you can search the site, using the subject index if you already know the name of the subject you are looking for.

Plain English

Plain English

Is the site easy to understand?

Yes, it is. The Simplyteeth site has been written in plain English, using a question-and-answer format, which is easy to read and understand.

Colour photographs, x-rays and drawings have been used throughout the site. They clearly illustrate different conditions and procedures. These often show the condition before, during and after treatment. All photographs, x-rays and drawings are initially displayed in thumbnail form. They enlarge to full size with a click of the mouse.

We recommend that the section on Dental Anatomy - the first subject in the About Teeth category - should be read by all visitors to the site. It describes the outer shapes and internal details of the teeth and jaws, their parts, names and positions. It also explains how to understand and interpret x-rays, which are often used to illustrate tooth and gum problems. This subject will help the visitor to understand and appreciate the contents of the site.

Finding Information about A Tooth story

Using the Dictionary

Dental dictionary


What's in the site for me?

  1. Parents
  2. Children and Adolescents
  3. Adults
  4. Ageing and Elderly People
  5. Dental Practitioners

1. Parents

Parents are concerned about the health of their children. We provide information on dental health starting from birth. Answers are given to questions such as:
When do you start brushing baby teeth? What can be done about injuries to baby teeth? When should a child first go to the dentist? What are the benefits of fluoride?
Does diet matter to dental health? Are sweets really so bad for children's teeth? When can crooked teeth be straightened? Does it matter if they are just left crooked?

The Anatomy section contains the names, shapes and positions of teeth. We suggest that you visit the Anatomy page as it will help you to understand this website.
A Calendar of Tooth Growth shows the pattern of tooth growth from pre-birth to age six years. See the miracle of tooth-growth unfold.
An Eruption Chart indicates the average arrival times of the baby teeth. Did you know that they erupt with their roots only partially formed? Why is this of importance?

Discover what is taking place in your child's mouth, and the importance of good oral hygiene.

2. Children and Adolescents

This website is easy to read and understand. You may be surprised to see in the Calendars of Tooth Growth how teeth grow and erupt. They cover the periods from pre-birth to six years, and from seven to twenty one years.

You can learn the most sensible way of eating for good dental health: what foods to cut down on or cut out altogether. (You may not like this part!).

Do you know that sugarless chewing gum will not harm your teeth, and is actually good for them?

Read how to brush and floss your teeth to avoid problems. When can you have your crooked teeth straightened? Will it hurt? Will it work? Read on.

3. Adults

An awareness of the state of your teeth and gums , and how to best care for them, is essential for a healthy mouth. A healthy mouth is necessary for good general health, especially as we grow older.

Your most frequent questions are answered:
Why do I need to brush and floss regularly? Why are my teeth sensitive to sweet and cold drinks? Is sugarless chewing gum recommended?

Am I too old to have my teeth straightened? Is orthodontics only for children and adolescents? Is it stupid and vain to think about improving my appearance at my age? How are broken or missing teeth replaced? What kinds of tooth replacements are there? What are crowns, bridges and dental implants? Will tooth replacements look natural? How can I improve the colour of my teeth? What is the cause of my intermittent toothache?

4. Ageing and Elderly People

There should no longer be any reason for the elderly to have poor oral health. The effects of ageing, and how they can be treated, are shown in this website.

Many questions are answered, such as:
Are there particular dental problems associated with growing older? Should I be worried about bleeding gums, loose teeth or bad breath?

Why is my mouth often dry? What can I do about it? Does my medication affect my mouth in any way?

Can teeth be improved or replaced even in old people? What can be done about my loose dentures? Why is it particularly important for older people to have good natural or artificial teeth?

5. Dental Practitioners

This website can serve the dental profession in a most important way:

Use this site as an educational tool.
Have the website accessible to patients in your dental office.
Print the relevant pages for your patients.
A written and clearly illustrated explanation is easier to understand and remember, particularly for children. The written word and images carry an authority that reinforces the dentist's advice.
A well-informed and interested patient is likely to be more co-operative.
Refer your patients to the web for information about, and an explanation of, their treatment.

The Anatomy of Teeth and Jaws

A knowledge of the outer shapes and internal details of the teeth and jaws will help the viewer to understand and appreciate the simplyteeth website. We suggest that you familiarise yourself with the information provided. The subjects to be detailed are:

  1. The Teeth and Their Parts.
  2. Tooth Names and Positions.
  3. The Jaws and Jaw Joints (Temporomandibular Joints / TMJ).
  4. Dental X-ray Viewing and Interpretation: Seeing Inside Teeth and Bone.

1. The Teeth and Their Parts:

  • Each tooth has two main parts, the crown and the root.
  • The crown and the root meet at the neck of the tooth, which is normally just below the gum margin.

Click to enlarge
The tooth

Click to enlarge
Normal teeth, gum and bone
  • The crown
    This is the part of the tooth that we see in the mouth.
    It is made up of the enamel, dentine and pulp.
    The appearance of teeth varies in shape and size.
    • The front incisor teeth have a straight edge as a cutting tool.
    • The canine or eye teeth are the pointed long teeth between the incisor and premolar teeth.
    • The pre-molar and molar teeth are larger and have cusps.
    • A cusp is the raised pointed part of the chewing surface of a tooth.
    • The presence of large cusps on pre-molar and molar teeth marks the main difference between them and the front teeth.
    • Pre-molar teeth (bicuspids) have two cusps.
    • Molar teeth each have four or more cusps.
    • The four permanent lower incisor teeth each erupt with three small cuspettes that resemble a serrated edge. These cusps wear down with use and the teeth remain with a straight edge.
    • The four permanent upper incisors may erupt with three very small cuspettes. These are much less obvious than those on the lower incisors. They are also normally worn away to form a straight edge.
  • Enamel
    • The enamel is the white hard covering over the crown of the tooth.
    • It is shaped into cusps, fissures and pits in premolar and molar teeth.
    • It is the hardest material in the body and does not have a nerve supply.
      Chipping or damage to enamel only will not be painful.
    • It also does not have a blood supply.
      This results in a chipped tooth remaining exactly as it is.
      Enamel cannot heal or repair as bone or dentine can.
  • Dentine
    • Dentine is a cream coloured hard material that makes up the bulk of the tooth.
    • It is covered by enamel on the crown, and by cementum on the roots.
    • The dentine surrounds and protects the nerves and blood vessels (pulp) in the crown and roots.
    • Dentine is alive or vital in as much as more dentine can be formed, and it can register pain.
      • A protective layer of secondary dentine can be layed down over the pulp.
      • This happens in response to caries, attrition, abrasion, erosion, or fracture of a tooth, when the dentine becomes exposed.
      • The tooth becomes sensitive to temperature changes and feels painful, when the dentine is exposed in the above mentioned ways.
  • Pulp
    The nerves and blood vessels of the tooth are called the pulp.
    • The pulp occupies the root canals, and the pulp chamber in the crown of the tooth.
    • When it is exposed to infection by decay or injury it will die and cause severe pain. An abscess will develop on the root.
    • The tooth will have to be extracted if a root canal treatment is not performed to save it.
  • The roots
    The roots are embedded in the tooth socket in the jaw bone.
    • The front incisor and eye-teeth each have a single root.
    • Pre-molar teeth (bicuspids) have one or two roots.
    • The molar teeth can have two or three roots.
    • Each root has a root canal for the nerves and blood vessels to pass through.
    • Roots are covered by cementum and held in place by the periodontal ligament.
  • Cementum
    • The cementum is a thin calcified covering of the roots.
    • It meets the enamel at the neck of the tooth.
    • It has no nerve supply.
    • The cementum covers the dentine of the roots.
    • It is attached to the periodontal ligament.
  • Periodontal membrane or ligament
    The periodontal ligament attaches the roots to the alveolar bone of the jaw.
    • It has both a nerve and blood supply
    • The ligament provides an elastic cushion between the tooth and the bone. Slight movement of a tooth is made possible by the ligament.
    • Teeth are not rigidly joined to bone. There is flexibility.

2. Tooth Names and Positions.

A. Baby Teeth
Tooth Names Positions

Front Teeth:
A. Central incisor
B. Lateral incisor
C. Canine or eye tooth

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Upper Teeth

Back Teeth:
D. First molar
E. Second molar

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Lower Teeth

A. Permanent Teeth

Tooth Names Positions

Front Teeth:
1. Central incisor
2. Lateral incisor
3. Canine or eye tooth

Click to enlarge
Upper Teeth

Back Teeth:
4. First premolar
5. Second premolar
6. First Molar
7. Second Molar
8. Third Molar Or Wisdom Tooth

Click to enlarge
Lower Teeth

3. The Jaws and Jaw Joints (Temporomandibular Joints / TMJ)

  • The temporomandibular joints are the two jaw joints, one at each side of the face.
    • Movement of the lower jaw is made possible by this joint.
    • The upper jaw is called the maxilla and is joined to the temporal bone.
    • The lower jaw is called the mandible or mandibular bone.
    • The term "temporomandibular" refers to the connection between these two bones.
    • Chewing and speech would not be possible without this joint.

Click to enlarge
Jaw joint (TMJ)
  • The TMJ is a variation of a hinge joint. It is technically called a sliding hinge joint. This allows the jaw to be flexible and move in a number of directions:
    • The lower jaw moves up and down when the mouth is opened and closed.
    • When we chew food and speak the jaw movements can be forward and backward, sideways and circular.
    • In young children the jaw only moves up and down like a regular hinge.
    • The flexibility and other movements of the jaw develop with the arrival of the permanent teeth.

Click to enlarge
Jaw open
Click to enlarge
Jaw closed

4. Dental x-ray viewing and interpretation

A dental x-ray is a picture of the inside of a tooth and bone.

  • How to read or interpret an X-ray:
    Soft objects appear black, solid objects are white on x-ray.
  • What you see as grey/black on x-ray:
    • Decay.
    • Abscess.
    • Nerves and blood vessels (the pulp).
    • Gum in the spaces between teeth.
  • What you see as white/cream on x-ray:
    • The enamel.
    • Metal fillings and crowns will be white.
    • The dentine appears as a creamy white colour.
  • Bone has a mottled grey and white appearance. It has a fine white line at its margin around the teeth.

Click to enlarge
Illustration of x-ray showing
tooth parts and bone
Click to enlarge
Abscess above root
(the dark area)

Dentists and Dental Specialists

General dentists and dental specialists

  • The general dentist is qualified to carry out most dental procedures.
    A patient may be referred to a specialist for a second opinion or when the treatment seems to require specialised knowledge and skill.
  • A dental specialist works in a more specialised, and therefore a narrower field, than a general dentist.
    A specialist is equipped to treat cases where the complexity of a condition requires additional qualification and skills.
  • Specialists may overlap in the treatments they undertake. For instance, both periodontists and prosthodontists may replace teeth using implants. In addition, a general dentist may carry out procedures that could in certain circumstances be referred to a specialist.

General dentists

  • The general dentist is the person we usually refer to as "the dentist".
    • Patients should visit the dentist every six months for a dental check-up, which may include routine dental x-rays and a scale and polish treatment.
    • Some dentists employ dental hygienists for the cleaning, scaling and polishing of teeth. Others perform this procedure themselves.
    • Dentists are qualified to diagnose dental problems and treat patients of all ages.
    • If necessary these will be referred to a specialist dentist.
    • Fillings, extractions, root canal treatments, replacement crowns, bridges, veneers, dentures and other treatments, are routinely undertaken by a general dentist.
    • The dentist can administer a local anaesthetic, but general anaesthesia must be administered by a specialist anaesthetist, in a specially equipped theatre.

Specialist dentists

  • In addition to their basic dental training, specialist dentists have to complete at least another two years of training.
    • They undertake procedures that require specialist knowledge and skill in specific areas of dentistry.
    • Specialist dentists usually practise in their specialised field only.
  • Endodontists
    • Endodontists are specialists who treat the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth.
    • They treat conditions caused by injury or disease.
    • The most common treatment by an endodontist is a root canal treatment.
    • This involves removing dead or diseased tissue from the root canal, filling it with a special material, and then sealing it to prevent infection.
    • This procedure can save a tooth which would otherwise have to be extracted.
    • Endodontists also perform operations such as amputating a root from a multi-rooted tooth, or removing the tip of a root (apicectomy).
  • Oral and maxillo-facial surgeons
    These specialists deal with difficult extractions, such as the removal of impacted wisdom teeth.
    • They also perform surgery on other parts of the face and mouth:
    • Tumours are removed from the head, neck, mouth and face.
    • Jaws can be re-aligned by surgery.
    • Implants are placed in the jaw to make tooth reconstruction possible.
      These implants will be used to support replacement crowns, bridges, or dentures.
  • Orthodontists
    Orthodontists straighten teeth and correct the alignment of teeth and jaws.
    • This improves both the function and the appearance of the teeth.
    • When there is crowding the orthodontist may need to extract some teeth.
    • Wires, rubber bands and various other devices are used to move teeth into their correct alignment.
    • Most orthodontic patients are children and adolescents.
    • Increasingly, however, adults are having the function and appearance of their mouths improved by orthodontics.
  • Paedodontists
    These are paediatric dentists that specialise in the treatment of children.
    • Paedodontists treat children from the age of one to adolescence or early adulthood.
    • They are trained to recognise early problems and to predict potential problems from early symptoms.
    • They will watch for decay, crowding, teeth out of position, injury or disease.
    • Knowledge of child psychology enables the paediatric dentist to treat nervous and anxious children sensitively.
  • Periodontists
    Periodontists are dentists who specialise in diagnosing and treating conditions of the gums, bone and other tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth.
    • These conditions may be caused by disease or injury.
    • Periodontists treat gingivitis and periodontitis.
    • They may graft gum tissue or bone where these have been destroyed.
    • They may place implants in the jaw to support tooth replacements.
    • The repairing or reconstructing of supporting tissues saves teeth that would otherwise loosen, fall out or be extracted.
  • Prosthodontists
    Prosthodontists are dentists who specialise in the repair or replacement of worn, broken or missing teeth.
    • Prosthodontists design and place crowns, bridges and dentures. These may be supported by implants, as well as by the remaining natural teeth.
    • A dental technician (not a dentist or dental specialist) makes these crowns, bridges and dentures from impressions of the patient's mouth and teeth taken by the prosthodontist.
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