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Learning from Nature: Beaver Teeth Show Us How to Protect Our Enamel

  • March 18, 2015

Everyone knows that beaver teeth are incredibly strong. The large, forest-dwelling rodents use their powerful incisors to gnaw through thick, living wood on a daily basis. While it’s a well-known fact that their teeth and jaws are impressively capable, the reason for this has only recently been revealed. In a new study released by Northwestern University,

A Better Understanding of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is one of the most chronic diseases in America. The American Dental Association reports that $111 billion is spent every year on dental treatment; a large percentage of this is spent on remedying cavities and other issues related directly to decay. It is estimated that 60 to 90 percent of children suffer from dental caries and that almost 100 percent of adults have had or currently have active cavities.

In an effort to better understand this phenomenon, researchers recently studied the teeth of rabbits, beavers, rats, and mice; rodents and humans have very similar tooth enamel.  The rodent teeth were exposed to acid, and images of the enamel were studied before and after testing to determine the reaction. It was when the beaver teeth were closely examined that the researchers discovered something of particular interest.

While the physical structure of beaver teeth and human teeth are similar, the ability of beaver enamel to withstand mechanical force and acid exposure was surprising. It was found that beaver teeth are even stronger than teeth consistently treated with fluoride due to the presence of iron and magnesium surrounding the enamel’s microscopic nanowires. Derek Joester, the leader of the study, reported that “We have made a really big step forward in understanding the composition and structure of enamel — the tooth’s protective outer layer — at the smallest length scales.”

The Future of Enamel Protection

With this new knowledge, scientists and oral healthcare professionals hope to discover innovative ways to improve dental treatment, thereby reducing the number of cavities suffered by both children and adults in America. As science continues to advance, the dental industry continues to move forward as well, offering more effective and comprehensive treatment. Dr. David DiGiallorenzo is consistently at the forefront of technology in the healthcare industry, providing his patients with the clear advantage when it comes to their oral health and overall wellness.