Minerals in Beaver Enamel May Improve Tooth Decay

Beavers have no use for a toothbrush or mouthwash, but according to a new study, beavers have built-in protection against tooth decay: iron. The iron is built into the chemical structure of the beaver’s teeth. The enamel is harder and is also more resistant to high levels of acid, even more than that of human teeth treated with fluoride.

To further understand the concept, one must know the structure of a beaver tooth. Inside, are layers of organized “nanowires” which make up the core structure, but scientists found that the material surrounding the nanowires are rich with amorphous minerals and iron, which are the root, pardon the pun, of the enamel’s acid resistance and durability. Overall, the study of enamel is very challenging due to its very complex structure, making the discovery of iron in beaver teeth that much more important. According to Derk Joester, one of the scientists involved in the discovery, the “unstructured” part of the tooth, made up of minerals, likely plays a role in tooth decay. The minerals in the teeth are what provide the variety of protection. The minerals in human enamel are composed mainly on magnesium while beaver teeth are composed of iron which is much more durable and resistant. Although human teeth are very strong and are, in fact, the hardest bone in the human body, they can still corrode through tooth decay by bacteria.

Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases and major health issues. Approximately $111 billion a year is spent on personal dental services in the U.S. Another 60 to 90 percent of children have had at least one cavity and nearly 100 percent of adults have had a cavity in their lifetime.

As an experiment, scientists took the enamel of rabbit, mouse, rat, and beaver teeth and X-rayed them then put them all in acid. After some time in the acid, scientists took another X-ray to see the damage. They found that the nanowires had dissolved in the rabbit, mouse, and rat enamel. However, the beaver enamel was only dissolved on the outside and the nanowires were unaffected. After the extent of the experiment, Joester and his colleagues concluded, “A beaver’s teeth are chemically different from our teeth, not structurally different. Biology has shown us ways to improve our enamel.” This discovery could lead to a better understanding of tooth decay in both earlier detection and better fluoride treatments to make teeth healthier and stronger.

In my opinion, studying aspects of other organisms and the way they live to find a way to improve the health and cleanliness of people and their hygiene is a very interesting and very good idea. If scientists find a way to apply their findings to make human teeth stronger, people would save more money from dental procedures and improve tooth sensitivity and prevent decay. The complexity of the tooth and enamel has long baffled scientists who, because of the information found in this experiment, may have a changed opinion or knowledge, emphasizing that science is always changing and that scientific facts can change if new evidence proves it wrong.


This entry was written by Zoe L. and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Minerals in Beaver Enamel May Improve Tooth Decay

  1. It’s really interesting that scientists tested rabbit, mouse, rat, and beaver enamel to learn more about tooth decay. I find it fascinating that the nanowires in the beaver enamel remained unaffected after being put in acid. It makes sense that beaver teeth would be chemically different since their teeth is used not only for eating, but also as a tool for building beaver dams. I’m also interested in finding out if scientists learn how to apply the principles behind what makes beaver teeth so healthy to improve the health of human teeth. It would be pretty cool to live in a world where people can have teeth that’s as strong as beaver tooth enamel.

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