Updated: May 12
Have you noticed ridges on your front teeth that almost look serrated? Is that normal or does it require treatment because it sure doesn't look pretty. Our long island city dentist will explain what they are and whether or not you need to do anything about them!
Table of contents:
What are ridges on teeth?
The scientific name for the ridges on your teeth is are called mamelons and they are a normal part of tooth development. Everybody has them or had them at some point in their life.
What they look like are three little ridges on the top of the teeth. Sometimes they are also described as 3 little bumps, nobs, or notches in your teeth. Others have even gone as far as to call them serrations in your teeth. They may also look a little translucent at the edge but overall, the color tends to blend in with the rest of the dentition in your mouth.
The main difference between teeth with mamelons and those without ridges is just the appearance because the function and structure of the teeth are all virtually the same. This means that they are not an oral health problem nor are they a warning sign of a future potential problem. You can be at ease that your teeth won't suddenly fall out because they have ridges on them.
Why do my teeth have ridges?
Your teeth have ridges because they develop from separate "lobes" during tooth formation. Each of the ridges that you see are actually separate developmental lobes of your tooth. Most teeth have a minimum of 4 lobes but some teeth can develop from more than that.
The pictogram above shows the different lobes of different types of teeth.
Front teeth have 4 separate lobes.
Back teeth have 4-5 separate lobes.
These developmental lobes eventually grow to form your entire tooth. Each lobe constructs and shapes a different part of your tooth. The combined work of all of the lobes create the tooth that you see in your mouth.
General misconceptions related to mamelons
There is a general misconception about the purpose of mamelons being used to help teeth break through the gums. That is absolutely false and incorrect information because their purpose isn't to help the teeth erupt. When teeth erupt, they are typically encased in an eruption cyst so the mamelons aren't even in contact with the gums. It is the lining of the eruption bubble that breaks through the gums.
Which teeth have mamelons?
Technically all of your teeth have mamelons and ridges on them but the most obvious ones that we see and tend to notice are the front teeth. The central incisors and lateral incisors are the most commonly noticed by the general population because they are located at the front of your mouth.
When do mamelons go away?
The ridges on teeth are most commonly seen in children but for the vast majority of the population, the mamelons tend to go away once they reach adulthood. On average, they tend to disappear once children reach about highschool age.
What tends to happen is that throughout the years, normal wear and tear from eating various types of foods will naturally flatten your teeth. The texture of the foods combined with your teeth grinding into each other, will grind away the ridges. Ultimately all of the ridges will even out with one another, thus giving you the appearance of not having any mamelons. This is a natural process that occurs and you don't need to do anything extra to speed it up.
Exceptions to the rulewhen your teeth don't overlap
There are exceptions because some adults keep their mamelons throughout their life. The most common reasons for this to occur are usually due to some type of misalignment with their teeth that prevent teeth from coming together. If the tooth don't touch or occlude with each other, then the ridges won't be ground away naturally.
Anterior crossbite. Some of the front teeth can be crossed in such a way that they don't touch one another.
Underbite. The lower jaw is in front of the upper jaw so this helps to preserve the ridges on the lower front teeth.
Deep bite. This is when your top front teeth come over the bottom teeth by a lot. This preserves the mamelons on the upper teeth.
Crowding. Your teeth could be crowded in such a way that some of the teeth are aligned out of the arch and not in contact with any other teeth.
Spacing. Your teeth could be spaced so far apart that they don't touch any other ones.
Protrusion. Your front teeth could be so far proclined that they have difficult contacting the bottom teeth.
Open bite. If you have an anterior open bite, it means that the front teeth just don't touch. If they don't touch then you can't grind away the ridges.
Unfortunately there is no way to prevent the ridges from forming because they are necessary for the development of your teeth. If you interfere with the formation of the mamelons, the tooth would actually not form and ultimately you will be missing a tooth.
An example of this happening is when a child gets their baby tooth knocked out and the parent inadvertently reinserts the baby tooth too far into the mouth. This can damage the permanent tooth that is growing underneath of it. This can cause developmental problems for the permanent tooth.
Should I remove the ridges on teeth?
You don't need to get rid of the ridges on your teeth because they will go away on their own most of the time by the time you are around high-school age. Even if they don't go away, there is no need to fix them either because they don't cause any issues. Your tooth will function just fine whether you have them or don't have them. They are not an indication or warning sign that something is wrong with your teeth because they are completely normal.
How do I get rid of the teeth ridges?
If you do wanted to get rid of them, it would be purely for cosmetic reasons. This is something that your dentist can help you with. Your dentist can either fix them or flatten them to make match the teeth in the rest of your mouth.
The easiest treatment for the ridges would be to simply flatten them with a dental drill. Your dentist would basically reshape the tooth by shaving away the top of the ridges so that they become flat.
It is a very quick procedure and should take less than 5 minutes. You also don't need to be numb for it either so you'll be in and out of the office in no time.
In lieu of shaving away the mamelons, you could also fix them by adding some teeth bonding to it. Your dentist will basically perform a tooth filling procedure and place some composite resin into the ridges to fill in the gaps. This is a form of recontouring of your teeth with a filling material.
This is a cosmetic type of procedure but it is less invasive than simply flattening the teeth because you are actually able to preserve the ridges. The ridges will just be hidden underneath of the filling material.
Pros and Cons
The pros for flattening them is that it is a quick procedure and you usually don't have an uneven bite afterwards. The cons for it is that it is irreversible permanent shaving of your teeth and it will never grow back.
The pros for fixing them is that it is more conservative and you can always undo it. The cons are that you may have an uneven bite afterwards and the bonding can sometimes chip off from normal eating.
The ridges on your teeth are a result of your teeth developing from multiple lobes when they are growing. The vast majority of the population will lose their mamelons as they get older because normal wear and tear will flatten them out.
Unfortunately, if you don't like the appearance of them, brushing your teeth and flossing them more won't get rid of it. What you should do is when you go in for your 6 month dental check up and teeth cleaning, you should ask your dentist for treatment options. Our restorative dentists in long island city will be more than happy to go over the treatments with you.
Source: Wheeler's Dental Anatomy, Physiology, & Occlusion. Stanley J. Nelson.