Most of us take our teeth for granted right up until the moment something goes wrong with them. As a Mt. Pleasant children’s dentist, my goal is to educate my young patients about their teeth and how to make them last a lifetime. It often helps to educate their parents, too!
They’re just teeth? What is there to know? Perhaps after reading these 10 facts about teeth you might have more appreciation for those pearly whites.
Facts About Teeth
1.They’re really hard.
The outer layer of your teeth is a protective shell called “enamel”, and it’s the hardest substance in the human body. In fact, enamel is actually harder than steel, though it’s more brittle. But teeth have to work hard, last a long time, and suffer abuse if you don’t take care of them. This means that even enamel can be cracked or chipped, and it can be a victim to the eroding effects of sugar and other substances.
2. Many species call your teeth “home.”
A host of different bacteria reside in your mouth. If you don’t brush your teeth, you give those bacteria time to get in a nice meal and multiply. The acid byproduct of their gluttony is the biggest contributor to tooth decay, especially if you feed them sugar! Brush your teeth!
3. Teeth aren’t actually bones.
I’ll admit they are quite similar to bone — they are hard, white, and calcium is a primary component. But teeth serve a different function than bones, and have a different makeup to account for the tough job they have. Teeth are primarily made from dentin and enamel, but that’s not the most important difference. Bones have the capacity to grow and repair themselves, something teeth can’t do.
4. Your teeth are unique to you.
Teeth are like fingerprints in that the exact structure of them is unique to each person. If you’ve ever seen CSI, perhaps you’ve seen forensic scientists (usually dentists with special training) identify someone by their dental records.
5. Saliva protects teeth.
Saliva is a natural protectant for your teeth, with its own cavity-fighting powers. Saliva has a lot of jobs to do, lubricating your mouth, washing away food debris, and fighting decay. The average person produces a whole quart of saliva per day, which comes out to about 10,000 gallons over an average lifespan.
6. Teeth are like little icebergs.
When you’re looking at a tooth, you’re actually seeing just a small portion of it. A big portion of the tooth lies below the gum line, which is why it’s vital to floss. When brushing, remember to hit the gums as well!
7. Thin enamel makes teeth look yellow.
Enamel itself is white(ish) in color, but the dentin beneath it is naturally yellow. Enamel is somewhat translucent. When it becomes worn and thin, the yellow dentin below shows through. Substances like coffee or tobacco can also stain enamel, turning teeth into a lovely shade of yellow-brown.
8. Genetics play a big role in oral health.
Just like your genes can determine your eye color or blood type, they also play a part in your oral health. The size, shape, and structure of your teeth are, in part, a product of your DNA. The same goes for your saliva, enamel, or susceptibility to oral health problems. But your health isn’t foreordained; you can still control your destiny with good hygiene habits and regular dental visits.
9. Nail biting is bad for your teeth
If enamel is so tough, how could nail biting hurt your teeth? Besides being unhygienic, the nail itself isn’t the problem. The upper teeth are just as hard as the lower teeth, and when you bite your nails they strike one another. The tooth-on-tooth impact can chip or degrade enamel over time.
10. The number one chronic childhood disease is tooth decay.
Tooth decay is the top reason for preschoolers to require surgery under anesthesia. This is even more sad because childhood caries is almost entirely preventable. It’s almost entirely a result of poor dental hygiene and poor diet, so ideally it would be a rare occurrence. Instead, over 40 percent of children have had cavities in their primary teeth, and 21 percent of children below the age of 11 have had them in their permanent teeth.
Don’t Wait—See Your Mt Pleasant Children’s Dentist Today!
The key to lifelong oral health is prevention. Don’t wait until after problems arise to see a pediatric dentist.