Official U.S. Tooth Numbering

Tooth Numbering – It is very interesting to see patients’ reply when a dentist is asking which tooth that has the problem. It is often that they have difficulties in explaining the location of the tooth. For your information, there are 32 teeth in an adult, and it is understandable that it can be confusing sometimes. That is why the American Dental Association (ADA) adopted the universal tooth numbering system and the Palmer notation method to make everything easier for both the patients and the dentists.

There is a bit of a difference between the universal numbering system and the Palmer notation method. The first one is the medical professionals using them. Most of the general dentists in United States utilize the Universal Tooth Numbering System, while many oral surgeons and orthodontists prefer the Palmer Notation Method.

Let’s talk about each tooth numbering system, shall we?

Adults Palmer Notation Method for Tooth Numbering divides the mouth into four quadrants; each is represented with a special symbol. There are 8 teeth included in each quadrant, with the front tooth as the number 1 and naturally the wisdom tooth would be number 8.

Note that the special symbol may also be represented in letters, which are: the LLQ (Lower Left Quadrant), LRQ (Lower Right Quadrant), URQ (Upper Right Quadrant), and URQ (Upper Left Quadrant).

Tooth Numbering System

Tooth Numbering System

The Children Palmer Notation Method for tooth numbering difference with the adult version is the use of letters instead of numbers. Because children only have 20 teeth, each of the quadrant uses the letters of A, B, C, D, and E instead of using the numbers of 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5.

Adults Universal Numbering System uses a different method. This system does not have the quadrant separation, but the teeth are directly numbered. The first number is the farthest back on the right side of the upper jaw (upper right wisdom tooth), continuing until the tooth number 16 which is located at the farthest back on the left side of the upper jaw (upper left wisdom tooth).

The numbering then continues with tooth number 17 is located at the farthest LEFT of the lower jaw (lower left wisdom tooth), continuing down the line until tooth number 32, located in the farthest RIGHT of the lower jaw (lower right wisdom tooth). One thing to remember is that the tooth numbering system counts the teeth that are missing. So if you have a missing tooth, it should be counted too.

The children Universal Numbering System also follows the same system and procedure. The difference is the count number that stopped at 20, and there’s a lowercase letter “d” that indicates the tooth is a baby tooth. In practice, some of the pediatric dentist may use letters instead of numbers. With this in mind, the farthest upper right molar is A,  the farthest upper left molar is J, the farthest lower left molar is K, and the farthest lower right molar is T.

There you go. I hope this tooth numbering systems adopted in United States can help you to improve interaction with your dentist or patient.