Some of our favorite activities, like eating and speaking, are made possible by our teeth. Despite their importance and the daily habits, we go through to ensure they remain healthy and strong, we don’t always think about why we really have them.

Each person can have up to 12 molars in total. This number may vary if tooth extraction procedures were involved. There are two main types of molars: premolars, or bicuspids, and wisdom teeth. Our premolars are our regular molars, which are the first molars to come in when we’re around 12 years old.

Without molars, chewing would be a lot more difficult. Because molars are flat and larger than our other teeth, they make it easier for us to chew, especially when it comes to tough foods. Otherwise, we would have only our incisors, which are thin and flat-bottomed. So, when you find yourself thinking about chewing your favorite foods, say a silent “thank you” to your molars.

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt in the mouth, and they’re not necessary. Experts believe our ancestors needed wisdom teeth to handle chewing the rough, hard foods they used to consume. Now that our diets have changed, we no longer need these third molars. In fact, many people don’t even have room for them in their mouths and must undergo a wisdom tooth procedure to remove them — about five million have wisdom tooth procedures each year.

Unfortunately, because molars are so far back in the mouth, they can be more difficult to keep clean. If they become too damaged from lack of cleaning, an experienced oral surgeon may need to perform a tooth removal surgery and replace the damaged molar with a dental implant. This way, patients can still have use of their molars.

While we may not think about our teeth often, remember why your molars are important. And if you’re looking to avoid oral surgery, make sure you’re keeping your teeth clean and healthy.