The bare minimum number of teeth that you need to chew with is two, however the more teeth that you have the more efficient you'd be able to chew. There is a direct correlation between how many teeth you have and how well you can eat your food.
Minimum requirement to chew
The absolute bare minimum amount of teeth that you need to chew would be two teeth. However, these two teeth must be directly opposing one another. That means there is one on top and one on bottom that are directly opposing each other.
Therefore, as long as you have two teeth that are opposing, you should be able to chew. Although how well you can chew would be a different story because you certainly can't eat very well with just two teeth.
The bitewing x-ray above demonstrates what we are talking about. There needs to be an upper and lower tooth opposing each other. If you don't have that, all of your meals may take a lot longer than when you had a full set of dentition.
Two teeth that are not opposing
If you had two teeth but they were not directly opposing one another, you would not be able to chew. For instance, if you had two bottom teeth next to each other you wouldn't be able to chew at all. There would be no top teeth for the bottom ones to grind food against.
More teeth means better chewing
Despite two teeth being the bare minimum to chew, having more teeth will increase your chewing efficiency. The more teeth you have left in your mouth, the more food you'd be able to grind up and mash up at once.
Therefore having more teeth will increase the effectiveness and efficiency of eating. We would even go as far as to say that there is a direct correlation between how many teeth you have and how well you can eat.
People often ask if they need to replace tooth number 15 since it is one of the furthest back teeth. Losing it will mean less teeth and thus less effective chewing.
Optimal number of teeth to chew
The optimal amount of teeth to have to chew at peak performance is 28 teeth.
Yes, we know that if you include the 4 wisdom teeth you do have 32 teeth but we don't chew with the third molars. The wisdom teeth are actually so far back in your mouth that you don't really use them at all. Most people are unaware of this fact.
Therefore, if we exclude the third molars that leaves us with 28 teeth. Most people do get their wisdom teeth removed at some point in their life anyway.
What about people who had braces and teeth removed?
It is quite common for people with severe crowded teeth to have four premolar teeth extracted prior to getting braces. If this is your situation, that would mean that you only have 24 teeth.
In our experience, we've never had patients with this situation ever complain about being unable to chew well. They've all eaten their foods well so we must say that 24 teeth can work just as well as 28 teeth!
The requirement to be able to chew food is to have at least 2 teeth but they must be opposing each other. That means one tooth is directly on top while one is on bottom. As long as you have that you should be able to chew albeit not very efficiently.
The more teeth that you have the better you'd be able to eat your food. If you need to replace any missing teeth, our dentists in Long Island City offers dental implant crowns!