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What is a Maxillary Molar?

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  • Written By: M. Haskins
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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A maxillary molar is a molar located in the upper jaw. The word "maxillary" refers to something related to the upper jaw, and a molar is a tooth located in the back of the mouth, which is primarily used for chewing food. Human beings usually have 12 molars: six upper jaw molars and six lower jaw molars, also called mandibular molars. The molars are grouped together in threes on either side of the mouth, up and down. On each side of the upper jaw, one has a maxillary first molar, positioned nearest the front teeth, a maxillary second molar, and a maxillary third molar, which is the rear-most tooth in the mouth.

The maxillary first molars are usually the first molars to come in, or erupt. These two teeth are sometimes called the six-year molars, because of the age when they commonly come in. The maxillary second molars are often referred to as 12-year molars for the same reason. The last upper jaw molars to come in are usually the maxillary third molars, and they are commonly referred to as "wisdom teeth." Wisdom teeth often erupt in the late teens or early 20s, but not all adults have them.

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Molars are sometimes called cheek teeth because of their location in the mouth. Their main purpose is to chew food, and the maxillary molars do most of the chewing. Each maxillary molar is a large tooth with three long roots, making it strong and solid. The maxillary first molars are generally the largest teeth in the mouth, while the wisdom teeth are often the smallest maxillary molars.

Each maxillary molar has three to five cusps, which can be described as the corners of the tooth. A maxillary molar always has two cusps on the side towards the cheek, also called buccal cusps, and usually three cusps toward the inside of the mouth, also called palatal cusps. The cusps of a maxillary molar are short and rounded on top, and these blunt points make up the chewing area, also called the occlusal surface, on top of each tooth.

The maxillary molars are often prone to cavities and other tooth decay. This is because the top surfaces of these teeth are larger and more uneven than that of the other teeth. In case of a cavity, a maxillary molar often requires a crown as well as a filling, because of its large size. It is very important to keep all molars clean by proper brushing and flossing.

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