How Are Teeth Numbered in Different Countries?


Ever hear your dental professional speaking in what sounds like code and you ask yourself “what the heck are they talking about?!”

Well if you want to crack the code, keep reading so you can follow along at your next dental appointment. 

The numbering systems are also called dental notations and there are 4 main ones; 

  • FDI
  • Universal
  • Palmer, (including Palmer alternates; Haderup and Zsigmondy) 
  • Letter/Number 

Different countries use different ways of numbering teeth so be sure to check the chart below for your country and the respective tooth numbering system used.

Below you can find a table I put together of a few countries and their dental notation used. Some countries I could not find information on so they are not included. 

CountryDental Notation Most Used
CanadaFDI
The United States of AmericaUniversal
United KingdomPalmer and FDI
AustraliaFDI
Argentina FDI
BarbadosPalmer
BrazilFDI
ChileFDI
ChinaPalmer
ColombiaFDI
CroatiaFDI, Palmer 
DenmarkHaderup (Palmer alternate system)
FranceFDI and Palmer
GermanyFDI
GreeceFDI
HungaryPalmer
IndiaFDI and Zsigmondy (Palmer alternate system)
IndonesiaFDI
IsrealFDI
ItalyFDI
JapanPalmer
JordanPalmer
LibyaPalmer
MalaysiaFDI
MexicoFDI and Universal
New ZealandFDI
NorwayFDI
PakistanFDI and Universal
PeruFDI
PolandFDI
RussiaPalmer
Saudi ArabiaFDI
South AfricaFDI
Sri LankaPalmer
SudanPalmer
SwedenFDI
SyriaPalmer
ThailandPalmer
TurkeyFDI
UgandaPalmer
United Arab EmiratesFDI
VenezuelaFDI

FDI, Universal, Palmer (including alternates), and Letter/Number notations

FDI (Federation Dentaire Internationale)

Out of all the ways to number teeth in the human jaw, the FDI system is by far the most widely used around the world. 

The system uses 2 numbers to identify each tooth. The 2 numbers are separated by a period.

For example; #.#

The first number indicates what quadrant the tooth is in, with the mouth being divided into 4 quadrants. 

Adult/Permanent Teeth

Quadrant Numbers;

Location in MouthQuadrant #
Upper Right1
Upper Left2
Lower Left3
Lower Right4

The second number indicates the location of the tooth WITHIN that quadrant.

The numbers of the teeth begin at the front of your mouth at the midline with the central incisors being 1 counting all the way up to 8 for the wisdom teeth. 

Tooth Numbers WITHIN the quadrant;

ToothTooth #
Central Incisor1
Lateral Incisor2
Canine3
1st Premolar (1st bicuspid)4
2nd Premolar (2nd bicuspid)5
1st Molar (6-year molar)6
2nd Molar (12-year molar)7
3rd Molar (wisdom tooth) 8
The mandibular teeth of an adult. The anterior teeth consist of the incisors and the canine. The posterior teeth consist of the pre-molars and molars.

So when identifying a permanent tooth using the FDI notation system, the quad number comes first, then a period, then the tooth number. For example, the permanent upper right central incisor would be 1.1.

Baby/Primary (deciduous teeth)

The same principals go for the quadrants in the primary dentition however, they have different numbers. 

Quadrant Numbers; 

Location in MouthQuadrant #
Upper Right5
Upper Left6
Lower Left7
Lower Right8

Tooth Numbers WITHIN the quadrant;

ToothTooth #
Central Incisor1
Lateral Incisor2
Canine3
1st Molar 4
2nd Molar5

So the primary upper right central incisor would be 5.1 using the FDI numbering system. 

Remember; there are no premolars in the primary dentition.

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Universal

Also known as the “American System”, this system foregoes the quadrants and just has a separate number for each tooth. The teeth are numbered from 1-32. 

Starting on the upper right wisdom tooth which is number 1, the numbers continue to count upwards to the upper left wisdom tooth which is number 16. 

The sequence then continues from the lower left wisdom tooth which is number 17 and extends around to the lower right wisdom tooth which is number 32.

Adult/Permanent Teeth

Upper RightUpper Left
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,89,10,11,12,13,14,15,16
32,31,30,29,28,27,26,2524,23,22,21,20,19,18,17
Lower Right Lower Left

Baby/Primary (deciduous teeth)

The primary teeth don’t use numbers, rather they have letters that represent each tooth.

The same concept is used here as the adult dentition, starting on the upper right 2nd molar with the letter A, extending to the upper left 2nd molar which is J.

On the bottom, it continues on the lower left 2nd molar which is K, extending around to the lower right 2nd molar which is T.

Upper RightUpper Left
A,B,C,D,EF,G,H,I,J
T,S,R,Q,PO,N,M,L,K
Lower Right Lower Left

Baby/Primary (deciduous teeth) alternate system

This alternate system follows the numbering system of the adult teeth, however, a “d” is used following the number which stands for “deciduous” another term for baby/primary teeth.

Upper RightUpper Left
1d, 2d, 3d, 4d, 5d6d,7d,8d,9d,10d
20d,19d,18d,17d,16d15d,14d,13d,12d,11d
Lower Right Lower Left

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Palmer

This system has since been revamped and modified into the FDI notation system. Even though it has been revamped, some countries are still using it and have not updated to the FDI system yet.

The palmer system uses a symbol resembling each quadrant and a number/letter for each tooth. 

Quadrants and their respective symbols. 

Location in MouthQuadrant #
Upper Right_|
Upper Left|_
Lower Left
Lower Right¯|

Adult/Permanent Teeth

ToothTooth #
Central Incisor1
Lateral Incisor2
Canine3
1st Premolar (1st bicuspid)4
2nd Premolar (2nd bicuspid)5
1st Molar (6-year molar)6
2nd Molar (12-year molar)7
3rd Molar (wisdom tooth) 8

A permanent upper right central incisor would be;

Baby/Primary (deciduous teeth)

ToothTooth Letter
Central IncisorA
Lateral IncisorB
CanineC
1st Molar D
2nd MolarE

A primary right central incisor would be:

Zsigmondy (alternate system) 

The only difference in the Zsigmondy notation system is that it uses Roman Numerals to indicate the primary teeth. 

This was changed by Palmer because Roman Numerals could be confusing and mistakes were made when identifying the teeth. 

Baby/Primary (deciduous teeth) 

ToothTooth #
Central Incisor
Lateral Incisor
Canine
1st Molar 
2nd Molar

The permanent teeth are the same as the Palmer dental notation. 

Victor Haderup Notation (Danish alternate system)

With this variation, the “L-shaped” symbols are not used, and in place + and – symbols are used. 

Jaw Symbol
Upper jaw (maxilla)+
Lower jaw (mandible)

Where the + and – symbols are located beside the tooth number/letter indicates either the right or left side of the mouth. 

If the symbol is to the right of the tooth number/letter is means it is on the right side of the mouth and vice versa on the left side.

Side (right or left) Location of symbol 
Right Example: 1- or 1+
LeftExample: -1 or +1

The permanent upper right central incisor would be: 1+ 

The permanent upper left central incisor would be: +1

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Letter/Number system

This system uses the quadrants of the mouth. The quadrants are labelled as the following; 

QuadrantNotation
Upper RightUR
Upper LeftUL
Lower LeftLL
Lower RightLR

Adult/Permanent Teeth

Then the location of the tooth WITHIN that quadrant is numbered the same as the FDI system; 

ToothTooth #
Central Incisor1
Lateral Incisor2
Canine3
1st Premolar (1st bicuspid)4
2nd Premolar (2nd bicuspid)5
1st Molar (6-year molar)6
2nd Molar (12-year molar)7
3rd Molar (wisdom tooth) 8

So if we are referring to the permanent upper right central incisor it would be UR1.

Baby/Primary (deciduous teeth)

However, the baby teeth do not follow the FDI system, they have their own lettering system starting at the midline with the central incisors being A and the 2nd molars being E. 

ToothTooth Letter
Central IncisorA
Lateral IncisorB
CanineC
1st Molar D
2nd MolarE

A primary upper right central incisor would be: URA.

The many languages of dental notation have confused me so many times I’ve lost count. Even in practice when referring to primary teeth I often have to count to make sure I’m saying the right tooth number. Practice makes perfect I guess, I’ll keep working at it!

Tooth Surfaces

If memorizing tooth numbers wasn’t enough, each tooth has 5 separate surfaces. Knowing the exact surface of the tooth helps us to indicate where a problem area could be. Is there an issue on the biting surface? Or on the tongue side of the tooth?

These surfaces are; 

  • Mesial
  • Distal
  • Buccal (labial)
  • Lingual (palatal)
  • Occlusal (incisal)

Mesial

The mesial surface of a tooth is the surface that is the closest to the midline of your face (the front of your face). This surface will be closest to the tooth in front of it.

Distal

The distal surface of a tooth is the surface that is the closest to the back of your mouth (towards your throat). This surface will be closest to the tooth behind it.

Buccal (labial)

The buccal surface of a tooth is the surface that touches the cheek/lip. Buccal is the term used for the cheek and labial is the term used for the lip.

The anterior teeth (canine to canine in each quadrant) the surface can be referred to as labial because it touches the lip.

Lingual (palatal)

The lingual surface refers to the surface next to your tongue on the “inside” of your mouth. It can be used for both the top and bottom teeth. 

Palatal is a term used for the inside of the top teeth because they are next to your palate. 

Occlusal (incisal) 

The term occlusal refers to the biting surface of the tooth.

However, on the front teeth (canine to canine) the biting surface is referred to as the incisal

Let’s say you have a cavity on your upper right permanent first molar on the biting surface. I would describe it as the 16O or 16 occlusal using the FDI notation system. 

I hope I’ve helped you to understand the different dental notations that are used around the world. 

Have a great day, 

Holly 🙂 

Citation

Holly Verran RDH

I am a Registered Dental Hygienist in Ontario, Canada. I hold registration and good standing with both the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario and the Canadian Dental Hygiene Association.

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