If there was going to be an animal that could teach dentists anything about the science of teeth, there is possibly no better candidate than the beaver. These semi-aquatic mammals are almost as well known for their large teeth as they are for their tails and propensity for building dams. But, what can beavers teach modern science about teeth that it does not already know?
Researchers think that studying beaver teeth will allow them to learn better ways of fighting tooth decay in humans. This makes perfect sense considering beavers do not brush their teeth or drink fluoridated water, but still manage to avoid dental damage even through constant use. What do beaver teeth have that keeps their mouths healthy after chewing on wood all day?
According to recent studies, beavers have natural protection against tooth decay embedded in the chemical structure of their teeth – iron. The resulting brown incisors are more powerful and more resistant to acid than the white enamel humans currently sport even after a healthy helping of fluoride. This information will not make human teeth stronger, but it does open a new window into how scientists understand tooth decay and how it begins.
The Maze of Enamel
Human enamel is made of layers of well-ordered hydroxylapatite ‘nano-wires’ at its core. What makes beaver teeth different is that there are small amounts of amorphous minerals rich in magnesium and iron surrounding the nano-wires. Researchers discovered that it is these small pockets of minerals that contribute to the enamel’s ability to resist and control acid. In this case, human enamel has higher concentrations of magnesium and beavers have higher levels of iron.
This may not seem like much to anyone outside the dental industry, but it is actually a significant development considering how notoriously difficult it is to study enamel. Researchers have to use powerful atom-probe tomography, as well as a variety of other techniques to map the enamel’s structure atom by atom. This is just to get the necessary data for the study; the analysis of whatever they get is still another matter altogether.
It pays to be on the forefront of dental technology whenever there are significant developments. This allows dentists to apply the latest techniques and technology for their patients whenever possible. If you want to have dentists who know what is best for you, contact us today. Our teams work closely with patients to reach the best solutions for the health of their teeth and mouth.