You rely on your teeth every day, but unless you’re in pain, you probably don’t give them a second thought. They’re just there in the background, ready to munch on food whenever you need some more calories.
Teeth, however, are way more fascinating than you might imagine. Take a look at some of these weird and wacky facts about your pearly whites.
Enamel Is Harder Than Copper But Not As Tough As Stainless Steel
Teeth are famously hard. So hard that they can last for thousands of years in the ground and still be used to identify the deceased person after their death. Research suggests that the enamel on the surface of teeth is harder than copper (which is saying something), and just slightly less strong than steel – the stuff they use to make battleships.
There is, of course, a tradeoff. While teeth are incredibly hard, they’re also prone to chips and cracks. Once you break them, your only choice is to go to the dentist to attempt to repair the damage.
The More Children A Woman Has, The More Likely Her Teeth Are To Fall Out
I bet you weren’t expecting this one! For centuries, it has been a folk tale that the more children a woman has, the more likely it is that her teeth will fall out. Recent research, however, confirms the anecdotal suspicions of these early observers. Data from New York University suggests that as a woman has more children, the likelihood that her teeth will fall out increases.
The reason this happens remains something of a mystery, and researchers don’t want to speculate. It could, however, be something to do with the demands and strain on a woman’s body during pregnancy and the early years of her child’s life.
Norway Is Collecting Baby Teeth To Measure Pollution
Norway is one of the richest and cleanest countries in the world, thanks to its enormous oil wealth and favorable business policies. The state, however, is still concerned about the level of pollution in the environment and has taken to collecting baby teeth – more than 100,000 of them.
Norwegian scientists are using baby teeth as a barometer of the level of toxic exposure that babies and young children must endure throughout the first few years of their lives. During the development process, as the teeth form, they create a record of the substances in the surrounding environment. When they fall out, scientists can test them for particular particles, like heavy metals, dioxins, or PCBs, and get a sense of how bad things really are.
People Can Develop Tumours Made Of Teeth
The idea that people can develop tumors outside of the mouth made of teeth sounds like a horror story, but it is, unfortunately, true. Tumors in stem cells – cells that become any type of tissue in the body – can malfunction. When they do, they can turn into anything, including teeth. Teeth, therefore, can wind up forming inside the bones of affected patients where the majority of the body’s reservoir of stem cells reside.
Your Teeth Are Already Cracked
From a distance, your teeth look like solid bits of tissue from top to bottom. You can’t see any cracks. If, however, you were to look at them more closely through a microscope, you’d notice something strange – small crevices running across the surface and throughout the interior.
In this case, cracked teeth are nothing to worry about. The cracking is simply a mechanism your body uses to distribute chewing forces across the entire tooth to prevent chipping. If your teeth didn’t do this, you’d wind up with breakages practically every time you sat down to eat.
Tooth Transplants Became Popular Among The Wealthy In The 18th Century
Today’s tooth implants are miracles of cosmetic surgery, something you can learn about right here. In the 18th century, however, it was a different story. Many wealthy women wanted better teeth and were willing to endure painful and dangerous tooth transplant operations to get them. Here, the dentist would rip out the old tooth (which was usually infected) and replace it with a new one from a donor – usually a dead person. The procedure rarely worked – most often, the new tooth fell out again. Furthermore, the patient often wound up with a nasty infection, like syphilis.
The Origins Of Your Teeth Date Back More Than 500 Million Years
Teeth have been around for a long time. The first evidence of teeth anywhere on Earth dates back around 500 million years to the Cambrian explosion that saw thousands of new species emerge in the oceans. These teeth were little more than grinders situated in the throats of fish-like sea creatures from the era. The “teeth” put them at an advantage, allowing them to chew their food and extract more energy. Over the eons, teeth migrated to the mouth, and we have the common structures we see today.
You Have 32 Teeth
The vast majority of people have 32 teeth in total. You have 12 molars (three at the top left, three at the top right, three on the bottom left, and three on the bottom right). You have four canine teeth for ripping raw flesh off the bodies of animals – well, maybe not. And you have another eight incisors – the pretty teeth at the front of your mouth.
Enamel Is The Hardest Part Of Your Body
It shouldn’t come as any surprise, given our earlier discussion, that your enamel on the surface of your teeth is the hardest substance on your body.
Yellow Teeth Means Decay
The whiteness of enamel varies from person to person. Some people are lucky enough to have pearly white teeth from the front to the back of their mouths with no yellowing whatsoever. Others have duller enamel naturally.
Yellow teeth, however, is a sign of decay. Bacteria slowly break down the enamel on the surface of the teeth over time, exposing the dentin that lies beneath. Dentin is naturally yellow, so when the enamel thins because of bacterial erosion, the dentin shows through.
More Than 300 Species Of Bacteria Live In Your Mouth
Believe it or not, your mouth is a pleasant home for bacteria. The warm, moist environment and the constant supply of food make it an excellent habitat. Humans and mouth bacteria co-evolved over the millennia to serve each other. Bacteria in the mouth help to process food debris and keep the lining of the gums healthy, and, in return, they get a steady supply of food.
The problem with bacteria mainly arises from the modern diet, not the natural bacterial ecosystem. When people eat sugar, they shift the type of bacteria that lives in their mouth to a more harmful variety. Thus, it is not the bacteria themselves that are the problem, but the kind that lives in your mouth. If you want to improve your oral health, just switch to eating foods that don’t contain refined sugar.
You’ll Make About 10,000 Gallons Of Saliva Throughout Your Lifetime
A gallon of spit seems like a lot, but 10,000 gallons is enormous – enough to fill a swimming pool.
The human body produces about a quart of saliva per day. The purpose of saliva is to keep the interior surfaces of our mouth lubricated and to defend against bacterial overgrowth. Saliva transports excess bacteria from the mouth down to the stomach acid where it is destroyed. Saliva also contains helpful enzymes like amylase that break down sugars and starches in our food.
A Third Of Each Tooth Is Below The Gumline
Have you ever wondered why your dentist always tells you to brush your gums? The reason is that about a third of your teeth sit below the gumline. Bacteria can slip down between the gum and the tooth and start creating infections at the base. These can then cause the gum to recede and the root to decay.
No Two Sets Of Teeth Are The Same
Unless you’re a twin, no two sets of teeth are the same. The uniqueness of teeth is why coroners use dental records to identify people long after they’ve passed away.
It makes sense, of course, that all teeth would be a little different from each other. Everything else about our bodies is, so why not the teeth too?
We May Soon Be Able To Grow Teeth In The Lab
Currently, dentists have to use synthetic prosthetics to replace lost teeth. In the future, though, this could change as the technology to grow real teeth in the lab becomes available. It could do away with the traditional implant process and allow people to grow biologically-compatible teeth in a dish.
Science is more progressed than you might imagine. Researchers at the Universities of Georgia and Tennessee have found the set of genes that regulate the construction of teeth throughout the animal kingdom, opening up the possibility of biologically engineering them for use in the human body.
So there you have it: the weird and wacky things you never knew about your teeth.