Identifying Human Teeth: Human Dentition Cheat Sheet

[Update: Eagle-eyed reader Paula M. noticed that a premolar text box was originally duplicated on the molar slide, throwing everything out of whack; this has been fixed on both the image file and pdf as of June 04, 2015. Please re-download!]

I took my first osteology class my second year of grad school. The evening before we were scheduled to have our preliminary tooth quiz, I found myself on a plane ride back from visiting family up north. I sat nursing a Coke Zero, furiously scouring White and Folkens Human Bone Manual and jotting down any scrap of information that would help me identify or side the enigmatic loose dentition I knew I would be confronted with the next morning. The middle-aged man sitting next to me watched me curiously for awhile, taking in my frazzled expression, stained clothing and messy hair, before finally biting the bullet. “I’m sorry to bother you,”, he said “but I just have to know. Are you a dental student?”.

While the impression that I gave off that evening was misleading, the disorganized sprawl of a dental cheat sheet that I produced is actually something I’ve used quite frequently in the years since. At this point, it’s covered with pencil sketches of the occlusal surfaces of molars, hastily crossed-out swathes of scribbled notes about tooth roots, and irregular splotches of highlighter. While I always have the Human Bone Manual on hand, there are times when I don’t want to flip through the twenty pages on teeth when I’m trying to figure out something specific, like the directionality of wear on lateral incisors. Laziness, a detailed knowledge of the lay-out of my hand-written cheat-sheet, and the fact that I often don’t have the lap or table space available to flip through a book, have combined to make the cheat-sheet an analytical crutch for me. However, for anyone else, trying to navigate its tortuous organization and impenetrable short-hand is a feat akin to trying to decipher the Voynich Manuscript.

My original dental cheat sheet

For the sake of my sanity, I’ve reconfigured my cheat-sheet into four neatly organized pages. All of the tips and techniques are cribbed from the Human Bone Manual, often-times copied out exactly. The only difference between this and what’s in the HBM is in the organization. Instead of having to hunt through multiple pages to find what you’re looking for, this organization provides all of the information each specific tooth category on one page. So, if you’re a budding osteologist and just learning your way around human teeth, it’s a useful supplement to the Manual itself. Know you’ve got a canine, but can’t tell if it’s an upper or a lower? Forget whether the wear on lower molars slopes lingually or bucally? This cheat sheet provides an easy way to answer those questions, so long as you know what category of tooth (e.g. incisor, canine, premolar or molar) you’re working with.

Key points for starting off

Incisors Canines Premolars

Bone Broke Human Dentition Cheat Sheet (Adapted from HBM 2005)

Or, if you’d prefer a printable pdf, you can download the following :

Bone Broke Human Dentition Cheat Sheet (Adapted from HBM 2005)

Note: Because I’m working on an enormous amount of loose human dentition right now (today’s work brought the tooth count for this necropolis up to 794, 78% of which have been loose), I’m going to be starting a series of posts called Identifying Human Teeth, that go into more detail about the differences between specific types of tooth categories. But for now, I’ll leave you with the broad-scale cheat sheet.


White, T. D. and P.A. Folkens. (2005) The Human Bone Manual. Elsevier, Amsterdam.

Image Credits: All photographs were taken at the Museo de Jaén in summer 2014.

This entry was posted in Human Teeth, Osteology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Identifying Human Teeth: Human Dentition Cheat Sheet

  1. This is fantastic! Very useful.


  2. Pingback: Identifying Human Teeth: The Premolars | Bone Broke

  3. Pingback: Skeletal Series Part 12: Human Teeth | These Bones Of Mine

  4. Pingback: Bone Broke Year in Review | Bone Broke

  5. Paula M. says:

    Thanks for doing this, it is very helpful at the moment, since I need to learn tooth identification for my undergrad dissertation. Having said that, I don’t want to sound mean or anything, but just to point out that on the molars section, the ‘Location in Arch’ description corresponds to the premolars, whilst the actual data is found in the ‘Left or Right’ section of the molars division, which means the siding information on molars is actually missing. I hope that made sense, and otherwise, your cheat-sheet and blog are great!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. JB says:

    Hi Paula,
    Thanks for the heads up! This situation exemplifies my tumultuous relationship with Powerpoint; simultaneously the love of my life and the bane of my existence. I’m not sure how the boxes got duplicated originally, but they should be fixed now! Let me know if you have any more problems, and thanks again for letting me know about the problem.

    – Jess


  7. Very useful..thank you for the references


  8. Faizan Munir Khan Rajput says:

    your work is exemplary, thanks a lot for sharing it. I have a query, in the the left or right sections, are you describing the left sided tooth or the right?
    Thanks a lot for your time and effort.
    Dr. Faizan Munir Khan


  9. Faizan Munir Khan Rajput says:

    Hi, thanks a lot for your exemplary work, I have a query, in the right or left sections, are you describing the right tooth or the left?


    • JB says:

      Hi Faizan, Apologies for the delayed response, this got buried in my inbox. The left/right sections describe both left and right teeth. To differentiate left from right canines, for example, orient the tooth so that you can compare the mesial and distal occlusal ridges. The mesial occlusal ridge will be shorter (and, obviously, mesial) which will allow you to side the tooth.


  10. Bill says:

    You are simply wonderful! Thank you for sharing this bite sized last minute revision sheet.
    All the best with your graduate degree!


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