At the Placerville Dental Group, we’re always interested in new techniques, discoveries and developments in the dental field. It’s not only a part of our passion to maintain and improve your oral health, but it’s fascinating to watch how new discoveries manifest themselves in dental care. A few years ago, scientists focused their research on beaver teeth, and their findings still catch our interest.
What Makes Beaver Teeth Unique?
When you look at a beaver, one of the first things you’re likely to notice is their teeth — not just because of their size, but their color! Beaver teeth are typically a shade of orange. This is because, as with other rodents, beaver teeth have thick enamel that also contains iron. The iron is present primarily on the part of the tooth that faces outward, not inwards towards the mouth. The metallic element appears to substitute for calcium in their tooth enamel, lending the same colors we see in rust. With human enamel, since the main ingredients are phosphate and calcium, our enamel tends to be white. When rodents eat a calcium rich diet, their teeth can become white too, as the iron is replaced by calcium!
What does all that iron do for their teeth? Evidently it increases the tooth strength and durability, making the tooth less likely to crack or shatter. This allows beavers to spend their lives gnawing on trees and building dams while primarily using their teeth. (For example, a beaver takes down an eight-foot high tree in as little as five minutes!) But since the iron is primarily on the outside of the teeth, the inside surface is softer, wearing down more quickly. As a result, their teeth are self-sharpening!
Yet another interesting fact is that beaver teeth continue to grow. Human teeth stop growing once they reach full size. Since beavers are constantly wearing down their teeth as they chew trees, it’s important that their teeth keep growing. And like other rodents, if they do not eat or gnaw on enough hard objects, their teeth can eventually get so long that they become useless and the animal starves.
What Beaver Teeth Might Mean for You
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), United States residents spend over $100 billion per year on dental services to avoid or repair issues like cavities and tooth decay. Since the ADA also reports that 42% of Americans don’t see a dentist as often as they should, $100 billion is possibly a conservative number. Nevertheless, it shows how much we are willing to invest in our oral care! We want teeth that work well and look great. Therefore, further research into beaver teeth may lead to dental products that harden human tooth enamel, making it more resistant to acids in foods and drinks. Another possibility is that dentists might determine how to make human enamel regrow like beaver enamel. This process could allow your teeth to heal themselves of sensitivity, cracks, pits, fissures, or caries. Of course, you might have to deal with the orange color too!
Who Wants Beaver Teeth?
Honestly, no one comes into the Placerville Dental Group and asks us to make their teeth “beaver orange.” If anything, some patients have teeth pretty close to orange due to tobacco use or drinking certain kinds of dark teas. Since the majority of our patients want whiter teeth, we have several products and techniques to help them reach their desired whiteness. But if we ever hear about any new products based on beaver teeth, we will let you know.