Tooth Surfaces – There are several characteristics of the external appearance of a tooth. The following section describes the tooth surfaces of both the anterior and posterior teeth.


The proximal tooth surfaces or contact is formed by the contact of two adjacent teeth. The mesial surface of one tooth contacts the distal surface of the adjacent tooth to form the proximal contact. The two surfaces that come into contact with each other are called the proximal surfaces.

The mesial surface is the side of the tooth closest to the middle (midline) of the dental arch. The distal surface is the side of the tooth that is farthest away from the arch middle (midline).

Interproximal Area

The interproximal area is formed by the proximal contact of adjacent teeth. The area above the proximal contact, towards the gingiva, is the interproximal space. This space is usually filled with unattached gingiva.

Lingual tooth surfaces

The lingual surface is the area of the tooth, both anterior and posterior, that is closest to the tongue.

Labial Surface

The labial surface is the portion of the anterior tooth that faces the lip.

Buccal tooth surfaces

The buccal surface of the tooth is the portion of the posterior tooth that faces the cheek.

Facial tooth surfaces

The facial surface is a generic term for both the posterior and anterior teeth. The facial surface refers to both the buccal and labial surfaces of the teeth collectively.

Occiusal tooth surfaces

The surface of the tooth that occludes with the tooth of the opposite arch is known as occlusal surface. In other words, the occiusal surface is the section of the posterior teeth that is utilized as the actual biting and chewing surface.

Incisal Edge

The incisal edge is the portion of the anterior teeth used for tearing or incision of the food items. It is the very edge of the anterior teeth.


Human dentition consists of two sets of teeth:

(1) Primary, Deciduous or Milk dentition, and

(2) Permanent, Secondary or Succedaneous dentition.

On the basis of form and function of tooth surfaces, the teeth may be divided into three classes in case of primary dentition (Incisors, Canines and Molars) and four classes in case of permanent dentition (Incisors, Canines, Premolars and Molars).