We use our teeth to chew our food into chunks that are easy to swallow. It is an important part of the digestion process. But how much do we really know about this humble body part? Do you know that teeth have equally important uses other than helping our body process food? Read on and let your mind be blown by these incredible facts about your teeth.
- Teeth can tell stories of mankind from millions of years ago. Our teeth are 97% mineral. This means they will survive for many more years than bone. Remains of human teeth have provided clues to paleontologists, archaeologists, and scientists about how our ancestors lived. Some of the discoveries made using human teeth are:
- Scientists know that people during the Mesolithic period caught fish and removed their scales through their teeth by finding fish scales in their teeth plaques. This may sound disgusting but those plaques that we all try to get rid of are actually helpful when they become calcified and traps germs and debris. Sort of like a time capsule.
- In the 14th century, the Bubonic plague, or what we all know as the Black Death, ravaged Europe. A recent discovery of 3800-year-old bodies in the Volga River in Russia could prove that the disease may have inflicted humans 800 years earlier. The teeth of these human remains contain Yersinia pestis, the bacteria responsible for the Black Death.
- Teeth from victims of the famous Mt. Vesuvius eruption in Pompeii revealed the diet of ancient Romans. It was discovered that they almost had perfect teeth and cavities were rare. This was due to a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and low sugar. Because of the volcano, their water naturally had fluorine. This helped the citizens of Pompeii fight tooth decay.
- Teeth help catch criminals. Our teeth can aid forensic investigators in several ways to identify the people involved in a crime.
- Dental patterns are unique for every person. Investigators can match dental records to bite marks to identify the offender. The controversial American serial killer Ted Bundy was arrested when a bite mark on a corpse matched his dental records. This paved the way for his conviction and punishment through the electric chair.
- DNA from cells inside the teeth can help identify victims of crimes.
- Dental records can be used to match the identity of people in crime scenes where the bodies have decomposed or are unidentifiable due to damage. Dental records have identified several people that perished in the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attack in New York City.
- Teeth are harder than steel. There are 3 hard components in human teeth – enamel, dentin, and cementum. Enamel is made of a substance called hydroxyapatite, a form of crystallized calcium. In the Mohs ranking for the hardness of minerals, teeth have a rank of 5. This means that your teeth are harder than gold, silver, and iron too.
- Teeth cannot heal themselves. The outer enamel covering does not contain any living cells. When it gets damaged, it can’t regenerate to cover up the damage. This is something we should all remember. There are no second chances with teeth.
- Teeth can tell if are sick or anxious. Your eyes are not the only crystal ball to your health. A single look at your teeth can tell dentists and health experts if you are going through something.
- Anxious and stressed people often clench their jaws or grind their teeth. These leave marks on the teeth like chips and cracks.
- A huge percentage of pregnant women suffer from gingivitis. If you’ve never had one before and you suddenly develop this gum inflammation along with a missed period, a cute bundle may be on the way. Make sure to have yourself checked out by a dentist as neglected gingivitis could lead to more serious problems.
- Diseases like osteoporosis can reflect on your teeth. Loose teeth and receding gum lines are telltale signs.
- People with bulimia nervosa force themselves to vomit the food they eat in an attempt not to gain calories. The acids from the stomach can cause teeth erosion that is immediately obvious upon inspection.
- Teeth can tell you age. Teeth grow in a predictable pattern. Most people get their first milk tooth at around 6 months and their first permanent tooth at 6 years old. An x-ray of someone with lots of permanent teeth still buried in milk teeth is a clue that the person is still young. Your face may lie about your age but definitely not your teeth!
Our teeth are one of the features that make us unique from other humans and life forms. They provide clues to both the past and the present. There is no escaping what a tooth can tell. It reflects how we take care of ourselves, how we live, and even what misfits we got ourselves into. They are nature’s mystery boxes with stories waiting to be discovered.