What are the Characteristics of Maxillary Teeth?

Our oral cavity is formed by a combination of bones and muscles that have specific functions to perform.

One of the main components of the oral cavity is the maxilla. A maxilla performs several functions to maintain the shape, size, and activities of the mouth.


A maxilla consists of an alveolar bone which supports the maxillary teeth. It is a palate which forms the roof of the oral cavity. It also forms a maxillary sinus.

The maxillary teeth that form the upper dentition of your mouth play a significant role in digestion. Along with helping you chew and speak, the maxillary teeth also have a substantial effect on the maxillary sinus.

An infection in the maxillary tooth will not only affect the surrounding gums but may spread to the sinus, complicating the situation. Taking proper care of the upper teeth is essential.

In this article, we will unfold the characteristics of different maxillary teeth, how to take care of them and how they affect the sinus.

What are maxillary teeth?

The teeth that erupt from the alveolar bone present on the maxilla and forms the dentition of the maxillary jaw, providing support to the mandibular teeth are called as the maxillary teeth.

The maxillary teeth are divided into four types as the incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Every tooth has a particular function in the mouth.

There are a total of 10 primaries and 16 permanent teeth that erupt from the maxilla during our lifetime. (1)

What are their characteristics?

In a primary dentition, the maxillary teeth comprise ten teeth, i.e., two central incisors, two lateral incisors, two canines, and four molars.

The first primary maxillary tooth to erupt in the mouth is the central incisor, and last to erupt is the second molar.

These teeth temporarily function in chewing, speech, and swallowing. These teeth help the infant to adapt to the new changes in the oral cavity and prepares to get used to it until the permanent teeth erupt. (2)

As an individual grows, the primary teeth fall off and are replaced by the permanent teeth. There are a total of 16 permanent teeth in the maxilla and they are two central incisors, two lateral incisors, two canines, four premolar, and six molars.


Incisors are categorized under the anterior teeth group; they have incisal edges and single roots.

They function as a knife to cut the food and also guide the mandibular teeth during excursive mandibular movements.

Incisors are divided into a pair of centrals and a pair of laterals. The central incisors erupt an age of 7-8 years, and the lateral incisors erupt around 8-9 years of age.


The canines have a unique role to play; they are the cornerstones of the mouth. They act as a junction between the anterior and the posterior teeth.

Unlike incisors, canines have a cusp tip that helps to tear and break the food bitten by the incisors. Canines also act as the lateral guiding force. Maxillary canines erupt around 11-12 years of age. (3)


Premolars are an extra set of teeth that are only present in the permanent dentition. They replace the primary molars in the mouth.

Premolars are wide buccolingually and often consists of two cusps and are often referred to as bicuspids.

The first maxillary premolar consists of two roots to bear the biting force. These teeth are specialized to crush and grind the food.

The first maxillary premolar erupts at 10-11 years of age and the second maxillary premolars erupt around 10-12 years of age.


There are six molars in the maxilla, three on each side that erupts at the back of the jaw. Molars have unique anatomy.

They consist of typically four cusps and three roots to support the biting load and help in crushing and grinding the food and prepares it for digestion just like a mortar and pestle.

The most variable and unpredictable tooth out of all the maxillary molars are the third molars commonly called as the wisdom teeth. They differ in anatomy and are the last to erupt.

With evolution, the jaws of the humans have become small in size and do not accommodate the space for the third molars.

Most of the people in the present generation do not have third molars. If present they are impacted in most cases and become the source of infection and pain.

Hence, they are the most commonly extracted teeth in the mouth. (4)

  • First molars erupt as early as 6-7 years of age
  • Second molars erupt around 12-13 years of age
  • Third molars erupt around 17-21 years of age

What is the relation between maxillary and a mandibular tooth?

The maxillary and the mandibular teeth usually have the same purpose and position in their respective jaw bones. The only aspect they differ in is their eruption time.

In the primary dentition, all the maxillary and mandibular teeth erupt around the same timeline except the maxillary central incisors that erupted a month later than the mandibular central incisors.

Whereas in permanent dentition, the maxillary teeth erupt at around a year later than the mandibular teeth on an average except for the maxillary molars which erupt at the same time as mandibular molars.

The anterior maxillary play a significant role in guiding the lateral and excursive mandibular movements.

How do maxillary teeth affect the sinus?

The maxillary sinus is the most massive sinus cavity present in the face. The posterior maxillary teeth, especially the molars, are present near the maxillary sinus.

When the sinus gets infected, the pressure of the infection on the roots of the molars may refer the pain on the tooth which may falsely indicate a tooth pain. (5)

A dentist can identify and diagnose the infection after a thorough oral examination and x-ray study and may refer you to a general physician for the appropriate treatment.

In reverse scenarios, a maxillary tooth infection can invade the maxillary sinus and spread the infection. The real test to detect the difference between the two cases is tooth percussion test and dental x-rays.

How can you take care of your maxillary teeth?

Maintaining good oral hygiene especially of the maxillary teeth which are close to some of the most delicate parts of the face will help you to avoid unnecessary discomfort and pain.

Brushing and flossing have an integral role to play in keeping the teeth clean and plaque free. At any time if you notice any changes in gums or tooth especially the molars, consult a dentist to detect the dental condition at an early stage.


Impacted third molars become a home for oral bacteria and infection; it is wise to get the tooth extracted before the infection spreads to the surrounding tissues and bones.

Take away message

Our oral cavity is a specialized part of our body that is equally important as other organs in the body. Maxilla forms the middle half of the face and the maxillary teeth carry out different functions that help us in our day to day oral activities.

Every tooth in the mouth has unique shape, form, and characteristics that are functioned to perform essential activities like chewing, speaking and swallowing.

The teeth not only provide aesthetics but also help us to digest the food that we eat. It is, therefore, essential to take care of them by following a good oral healthcare routine and keep them healthy and clean.


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