Bellingham Dentist

The Dilemma of Back Teeth

Causes of Back Teeth Problems

Anybody who brushes his or her teeth knows that the posterior teeth or the teeth furthest at the back of the mouth are more difficult to reach via tooth brushing or flossing. By design, your back teeth have grooves and ridges that enable you to chew your food. The problem is, these are the same spaces that trap food. If they are not brushed well enough, the food bits are attacked by bacteria and can turn to plaque. Plaque increases risk of cavities which leads to decay and also gum disease.


The back teeth are called molars. They are the biggest and strongest teeth in the mouth. Adults have 12 molars, in four groups of three at the back of the mouth. The third, rearmost molar in each group is called a wisdom tooth. It is the last tooth to appear, breaking through the front of the gum at about the age of 20, although this varies from person to person.

The large surface area of molars have either four or five cusps each, which are elevations on the surface. Their purpose is to help grind up food. When you eat, your tongue pushes food to the back of your mouth. Then, your molars break up the food into pieces small enough for you to swallow. However, the cusps create grooves and pits on the surface area where food entrapment happens. If cleaning the back teeth is done half-heartedly food debris can build up.

Decay most often occurs in your back teeth, that includes molars and premolars. These teeth have lots of grooves, pits and crannies, and multiple roots that can collect food particles. As a result, they’re harder to keep clean than your smoother, easy-to-reach front teeth.

Though tooth decay doesn’t happen overnight. However, bacteria can convert fermenting carbohydrates (sugars in cooked, starchy foods) into plaque within 20 minutes. So clean around the back teeth with your toothbrush and dental floss every day. If you allow plaque build-up by not flossing properly over many years, bacteria and acids they produce will break down enamel. Tooth decay can progress inward and affect the pulp nerves. Progressive decay can cause pain and swelling symptoms and, in extreme cases, tooth loss.

To remove bacteria and plaque, it’s important to floss around the back teeth. If it is hard for you to reach this area, consider using a flosser, an electric flosser or a water flosser.


More Helpful Tips for Back Teeth in Bellingham

Need to know more about back teeth and how you can keep them in tip-top form? See our Bellingham dentist for an appointment soon.