For those who spent the majority of Shark Week wishing they could leave their job to live the life of a shark, here is yet another reason to envy this amazing creature: sharks do not get cavities. A recent study exploring the mineral composition of shark teeth found their enamel contains fluoride, the ingredient that protects against cavities, which is found in most toothpastes and mouthwashes. Results from the study answer the age-old question of why sharks are never seen rinsing with Listerine.
Teeth Virtually Impervious to Decay
Shark teeth contain the mineral fluoroapatite, or fluorinated calcium phosphate. The enamel of human teeth contains a different mineral called hydroxyapatite. Enamel is the hard, outer layer of teeth that protects the soft, inner layer of dentin from decay. A small amount of hydroxide in your enamel exchanges with fluoride whenever you brush with fluoride toothpaste. This helps strengthen enamel and protects against harmful bacteria that cause tooth decay. Shark teeth contain almost 100% fluoride, making them practically impervious to decay.
The Special Nature of Human Teeth
Despite this particular difference, shark teeth are strikingly similar to human teeth. Both shark and human teeth have dentin. If shark teeth were made entirely of fluoroapatite, they would be too brittle and shatter easily. With the addition of dentin, shark teeth are actually more functional, although technically weaker. They can withstand the rigors of tearing into the flesh of prey much better with this added flexibility.
Researchers found, contrary to popular belief, shark and human teeth are equally as strong. This sheds light on the unique nature of human enamel. Because fluoroapatite is stronger than hydroxyapatite, human teeth make up for the difference by a special arrangement of enamel crystals and protein. This adaptation reveals the genius of nature, even at the smallest level.
Strengthen Your Enamel
Our teeth may be strong, but the food and drink we consume every day feed the cavity-causing bacteria that live in our mouths. Using fluoride toothpaste or fluoride mouthwash may not give you the teeth of a shark, but these practices can help fortify your teeth against decay.
Schedule an Appointment
While Dr. Fondriest is no expert on sharks, he is an internationally recognized speaker and educator on cosmetic dentistry. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Fondriest, please call our Lake Forest dentist office at (847) 234-0517. We serve the Chicago, Illinois area, including the North Shore suburbs.