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What Are Mandibular Molars?

Third mandibular molars are commonly known as "wisdom teeth."
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  • Written By: Andy Josiah
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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Mandibular molars are the rearmost teeth located at the mandible, or lower jaw. There are three mandibular molars: mandibular first molar, mandibular second molar and mandibular third molar. Each tooth can be found on both sides of the mandible.

Molars constitute the rearmost teeth of dental anatomy. The term molar comes from the Latin term mola, which means millstone — a type of stone used for grinding grain. Similarly, molars are used for grinding food.

Each person has 12 molars. Six of them are the mandibular molars. The other six comprise two maxillary first molars, two maxillary second molars and two maxillary third molars. These molars are located at the maxilla, or upper jaw, and correspond with the mandibular molars below them.

The mandibular first molar, also known as the six-year molar, is located immediately behind the mandibular second premolar. This tooth assists the mandibular first molar in mastication, or chewing, of food. The premolar is also called a bicuspid because it has at least two cone-shaped elevations known as cusps. The term, however, is not entirely accurate since the mandibular second premolar has three. By comparison, the mandibular first molar has five.

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Besides being used for chewing, the mandibular first molar also is known as the first permanent tooth susceptible to eruption. This means that it bursts through connective tissue from its place of formation to assume its functionality above the gums. The mandible first molar is also the most common site for dental cavities, or holes formed in teeth due to demineralization. Studies have shown that the mandible first molar accounts for almost half of endodontic treatments.

Right behind the mandibular first molar is the mandibular second molar. This is normally the last tooth to appear in the mouth during a person's first few years of life — a period marked with deciduous, or baby, teeth. The mandibular second molar has four cusps: two that are buccal, or near the cheek, and two that are palatal, or near the roof of the mouth. The first mandibular molar, by comparison, has five cusps: two buccal cusps; another two classified as lingual, or close to the tongue; and its fifth, distal one, which stands away from the others.

The third mandibular molar, or mandibular third molar, is perhaps best known in dental anatomy as the wisdom tooth. It is the last of the mandibular molars to erupt or develop, usually between the ages of 17 and 25 years. Dentists commonly extract wisdom teeth when they begin to adversely affect other teeth in the mouth.

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