Beavers: Battling Tooth Decay in Austin

A beaverDental implants Austin, TX dentist Dr. Goehring wants to share with you some interesting new news trickling down from the world of biology and into the wide world of dentistry. It had to do with tooth decay, enamel strength and beavers.

At this time, dental implants sit at the brink of modern technology as being one of, if not the best method to treat severe tooth decay and tooth loss. Our dental implant patients here at Goehring Dental are always thrilled with the results of their new smiles. As a practice, we are proud to boast such high levels of patients happiness and satisfaction.

However, because we are a dental practice first and foremost, that makes our staff dental professionals first and foremost. That being said, even though we are thrilled to help so many people regain their smiles with dental implants, if there existed a way to better help them avoid needing to get them in the first place, we would jump at it. Our patients having to finance their own dental implants would likely jump at it as well.

Well, according to a report submitted by a group of researchers at a Northwestern University, a method like this may not be too far off in the future. And it’s all thanks to beavers.

I’m sorry, what? Beavers?

Yes, beavers. Those furry little buck-toothed rodents that swim in streams, lakes and rivers building dams to live in.

Now, before you start rolling your eyes and writing this post off as being something from the mind of a lunatic (and frankly we wouldn’t blame you) give us a chance to explain. We have a point!

Take a moment to think about something with us. Ask yourself what is is that beavers do all day. Well, they swim, build dams and -oh yes! that’s right!- they chew through incredibly hard substances like wood their entire lives. If those little facts aren’t fun enough, now ask yourself if you have ever seen a beaver using a toothbrush or going to the dentist to receive enamel strengthening fluoride treatments like humans do. We’ll save you the time and just answer for you: No, you have not. Despite all this wear, tear and neglect a beaver will die with a full set of strong teeth still firmly embedded in its jaw.

So what’s going on here, huh? What’s the big idea? Why don’t a beavers teeth chip and wear down the way a human’s would if they spent even a few days chewing on wood? And why don’t their teeth decay the same ways ours do?

Well, it appears the team of researchers from the Northwestern University we mentioned earlier felt just as jilted by biology as the members of this dental practice do right now. So they went in search of an answer and they struck iron. No, we didn’t mean gold. We meant iron, and a little bit of magnesium to be exact. According to their report, these are the substances that are making beaver teeth so strong.

A beaver’s teeth are structured in layers of  hydroxylapatite “nanowires.” However, that’s not the special part (we have nanowires in the structure of our teeth as well). The special part is in the material surrounding those nanowires where trace amounts of amorphous minerals rich in iron and magnesium can be found.

“A beaver’s teeth are chemically different from ours, not structurally different,” Derk Joester, the team’s leading researcher, explains. “Biology has shown us a way to improve our enamel. The strategy of what we call ‘grain boundary engineering’ — focusing on the area surrounding the nanowires — lights the way in which we could improve our current treatment with fluoride.”

And that’s that folks! It appears the dental world may have a new rising star on its hands. Let’s give a round of applause to the beaver everyone! Here’s hoping they light the way to super strong teeth in humans. Here’s hoping in the future we can chew through wood as well! Ok… maybe not so much that last part.

Until next time readers, keep smiling.