As we head into the new year, a lot of us take time to think about the things we’re thankful for. For many of us, this list generally includes bullet points like family, friends, health, and a warm place to live. However, if you really want to start thinking “outside the box” for things you’re thankful for, have you ever considered how grateful you should be for your mouth and teeth?
Yes! You can read that again—and no, we aren’t kidding. Our mouth is a fascinating component of our body and one that interacts with most other systems. For starters, without teeth, think about how lousy your ability would be to consume a nutrient-dense diet. If you are still curious how we at Mark C. Marchbanks, D.D.S. came to think the mouth is so great, keep reading as we unpack some surprisingly interesting facts and tidbits about it.
We hope that this unique look will also spur you to keep your whole mouth (cheeks, gums, teeth and tongue) healthy. Let’s dive in!
Centuries of people have cared for their teeth…in some pretty weird ways
While our ancient ancestors didn’t have access to great dental services like you do in Arlington, TX at Dr. Marchbanks’ office, they still knew caring for their teeth was important. The first written reference to dental decay is found in a Sumerian text from 5000 BC. Ancient Egyptian papers dating as back as far as 3700 BC have references to diseases of the teeth, too, and describe substances to be mixed and applied to the mouth to relieve pain.
Toothpaste was used as long ago as 500 BC in China, Rome, and India. Ancient toothpastes included ingredients such as soot, honey, crushed egg shells, and ground ox’s hooves. The world’s oldest recipe for toothpaste is from Egypt in 400 AD. The formula included mint, salt, grains of pepper and dried iris flower.
Fast-forward to the Chinese inventing the first toothbrush in 1498 with bristles made from the stiff hairs from the back of a pig’s neck (gross). Modern day toothpaste hit the scene in the 1800s, and Colgate released the first commercial-grade product in 1892. While our oral hygiene habits look much different today than they did even just 250 years ago, the historical significance of having a healthy mouth cannot be overlooked.
Everyone has unique teeth (as unique as your fingerprint or tongue)
Just like snowflakes and fingerprints, every tooth is unique in shape and size. That goes for both sets of teeth you will have in a lifetime: your baby teeth and your adult or permanent teeth. If you are a fan of crime dramas, you may have heard references to dental records being used to identify unknown victims. To identify a person from his or her teeth, a forensic dentist must have a dental record or records from the deceased person’s dentist. Identifying an individual by his or her teeth without dental records is much more difficult.
In addition to the dental records, forensic investigators can retrieve DNA samples by extracting the pulp from the center of the tooth. Unlike the tooth enamel, pulp can be damaged by fire and other conditions, but it can also last for hundreds of years. And if that’s not amazing, we don’t know what is!
The hardest part of your body is part of each tooth!
No cheating! What do you think is the hardest part of the human body? If you guessed bones—especially large ones like a femur—you might be shocked to learn you’re wrong.
Tooth enamel is much stronger than even your biggest bones. In fact, it’s harder than steel. This fact is a good thing for your dental health, because your tooth enamel must withstand heat and cold as well as biting into hard substances with an extreme amount of force.
As the most mineralized substance in your body, tooth enamel is made with layer upon layer of minerals that protect the inner portions of your teeth from damage and decay. Unfortunately, while dental enamel is the strongest substance in your body, it’s not invincible. Enamel can erode and break down over time, especially after prolonged exposure to acids and build-up bacteria known as plaque.
Buckets of saliva
Over the course of a lifetime, your body produces approximately 10,000 gallons of saliva. Think of that in the context of gallons of milk! And while this might sound gross, this amount of salvia is important for tooth health.
Lack of salvia and severe dry mouth can lead to serious oral and health complications. First, increased plaque, tooth decay and gum disease can occur in patients with low saliva production. Saliva neutralizes bacteria by limiting bacterial growth and washing away food particles. Other complications include mouth sores, yeast infections in the mouth, and dry skin around the mouth and lips.
Finally, salvia enhances a person’s ability to taste, swallow and digest food. Many older patients complain about dulled tastes, which can be tied back to dry mouth. If a decrease in salvia results in difficult chewing and swallowing, a patient’s nutrition will likely be affected.
“Only the top”
Your teeth are like icebergs—the majority of each one is below the surface. In fact, only one third of a tooth is visible above the gum line.
The tooth has two anatomical parts; the crown and the root. The crown is the part of the tooth that is normally visible in the mouth (above the gum line). The shape of the crown determines the function of the tooth.
The root of a tooth is the part embedded in the jaw. It’s what keeps them anchored in your mouth while you chew and houses your nerve endings.
Microbes in your mouth
In the midst of cold and flu season, we’re all on high alert for unwanted bacteria that could make us sick. However, our mouth contains millions of bacteria made up of 200-300 different microbial types!
Before you run to wash your mouth out with a big gulp of mouthwash, take note not all this bacteria is bad. In fact, some acts as a neutralizer to things you eat. However, main culprit for poor tooth health is Streptococcus mutans, which is an always-present bacteria that converts sugar and other carbohydrates into the acids, which eat away at your teeth. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and always remember to floss to ensure these bad bacteria are kept at bay!