Written By David Silverberg
We take our body for granted. The miracle of the human ecosystem is rarely analyzed because we live and breathe and fight off pathogens and enjoy flavours and smells without a second thought, because that’s the way it’s always been.
What is happening in our mouth is nothing short of a physical wonder, and at Muzeum Dental we wanted to share some fun facts we read courtesy several sources, including the new book by historian Bill Bryson. The Body: A Guide for Occupants features a compelling section on teeth and the mouth that is too fascinating to not share.
Below are some intriguing details that you may not know about those pearly whites you use all the time. In no particular order…
· Your teeth are made from enamel, the hardest substance in your body, and it can’t be replaced if damaged, which is why you visit dentists when you get cavities. Teeth are so hard they are often called “ready-made fossils.”
· Bite force is calculated in units called newtons (in honour of Isaac), and if you are an adult male you can muster about 400 newtons of force. Thing is, we are a far cry from the orangutan, which can bite with five times as much as we do. As Bryson writes, “Still, when you consider how well you can demolish, say, an ice cube (try doing that with your fist) and how little space the five muscles of the jaw occupy, you can appreciate that human chomping is pretty capable.”
· Hard brittle food may seem like it would be difficult for your teeth to break but it’s all about teeth figuring out how to use compression to create tension. For example, we split a log by hammering a wedge into it. That wedge presses into the wood, create a crack and voila the wood can be split. The same theory holds with a hard food such as carrots or nuts. Once a crack forms, the rest is must easier.
· Dental scrap refers to any dental type of material with a value higher than the cost of processing and recycling it into something new. For example, many bridges and crowns are constructed with metal alloys that contain precious metals such as gold, platinum, palladium, and silver. Learn more about scrap via our FAQ page.
· Saliva is a key part of our dental and mouth health. A typical adult secretes about two-and-a-half pints of saliva a day and some estimates peg us at 30,000 litres in a lifetime (as much as in 200 deep baths). Saliva is almost entirely made up of water.
· Not only sweets cause cavities but also carbs and starches. A starchy food such as bread or potato can produce a sweetness in our mouths, and bacteria there also enjoys that sweetness. They devour the free sugars and excrete acids, which drill through your teeth to give you cavities.
· Did you know saliva also contains a powerful painkiller called opiorphin? It is known to be six times more potent than morphine, despite it only being in our mouth in very small doses. As Bryson writes, “Because it is so dilute, no one is sure why it is there at all. It is so unassertive that its existence wasn’t even noticed until 2006.” · Human have about 10,000 taste buds, mainly spread out around the tongue, except in the very middle where there are none. More taste buds can be found in the roof of the mouth and lower down the throat, which is posited to be why some medicines taste bitter as they go down. · Some teeth also contain stems, inspiring some researchers to use dental stem cells to regrow human teeth, and if this is successful, we may be able to replace lost adult teeth for the first time in history. · We need fluoride in our drinking water to help maintain our teeth health. A study from 2018 found that removing fluoride from the water in Juneau, Alaska led to a significant increase in dental cavities. · You definitely want to avoid gum disease, which is why your dentist asks you to floss every day. When you contract a gum disease, those mouth microbes could have a role in a variety of ailments, from arthritis to Alzheimer’s.