Beavers are widely recognized for their powerful jaws and enlarged front incisors that the animals use to chew through wood and other materials. Recently, researchers from Northwestern University performed a study on the teeth of beavers and other rodents in hopes of finding the secrets behind their extremely strong teeth. Through a variety of tests, scientists discovered that though beaver teeth are similar in overall structure compared to humans, they did have a chemical difference. The reddish-brown enamel that protects the mammal’s teeth largely consists of the mineral iron. The researchers hope that this information will lead to future improvements in human oral health.
The Cost of Poor Oral Health
According to the American Dental Association, Americans spend more than $100 billion every year for professional dental care. The majority of money spent by patients visiting dentists is targeted at treating tooth decay. The World Health Organization claims that up to 90 percent of children in the world and close to 100 percent of adults have required dental treatment for cavities. While people are at a disadvantage compared to our tail-flapping little friends, there are techniques that we can use to help boost the health or our teeth.
Enamel is the translucent hard shell that covers and protects teeth when biting and chewing. The enamel also acts as insulation from temperature changes and chemicals. As the substance does not contain living cells, the body cannot make repairs if injury occurs. The fluoride found in toothpaste and water helps strengthen enamel by depositing crystals, which remineralize the coating. Green tea also contains fluoride along with catechin polyphenols that kill harmful bacteria that can lead to tooth decay or gum disease. Research performed by the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine learned that drinking one cup of green tea daily reduced decay by 19 percent. Cranberry juice and red wine also contain bacteria fighting polyphenols.
Researchers from Tufts University found that cocoa also has enamel strengthening benefits. Scientists claim that the common baking ingredient proved more effective than fluoride in protecting teeth. The chemical compound responsible for the barrier protecting action is known as theobromine. Cocoa also contains magnesium, with is the mineral found in human tooth enamel. So when the weather turns cold, feel free to indulge in a cup of hot cocoa. Other foods rich in the enamel building mineral include avocados, bananas, beans, dark leafy greens, dried fruit, fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains and yogurt.
Another method of keeping microbes at bay includes altering the pH of saliva. The herb licorice raises pH levels and effectively kills Streptococcus mutans, which has been associated with decay and gum disease. Chewing gum and other foods containing the sweetener xylitol is also poisonous to the bacteria. The organisms happily consume the substance as a food source similar to sugar. However, they cannot metabolize the compound. As the xylitol accumulates, the microbes die. Be sure to include foods rich in vitamins A, C and D along with calcium in your diet everyday. These nutrients are also important for keeping teeth and gums healthy.