Surfaces of the Teeth

When identifying teeth and referring to specific areas of a tooth, it is necessary to utilize named surfaces and directions designated according to where it is located. Teeth also have number/letter designations. There are several types of designation/identification systems, but the most common is the Universal System where the permanent dentition is numbered from 1-32 beginning with the maxillary right third molar.

  • Distal – The surface that is away from the midline of the face.
  • Facial – The surface that faces the cheeks or lips. Can also use the terms:
    • Labial – The surface towards the lips.
    • Buccal – The surface towards the cheeks.
  • Incisal – The biting edge of an anterior tooth.
  • Lingual – The surface that faces the tongue.
  • Mesial – The surface that is closest to the midline of the face.
  • Occlusal – The chewing surface of posterior teeth.
  • Proximal – Tooth surfaces that are next to each other (i.e., distal of lateral incisor and mesial of canine).
Figure 6. Surfaces of the Teeth.
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