Beavers are typically known for their extensive construction of dams on rivers and streams. Using their strong teeth, they’re able build their homes and live from day to day. The amazing strength of their teeth have led researches to ask, what makes them so tough?
According to researchers at Northwestern University, Beavers’ enamel is tougher and more protective against acid than regular enamel, and even enamel treated with fluoride. A study of beavers’ tooth enamel may give insights on oral health for humans.Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis examined the composition and structure of beavers’ enamel. Published in the journal Nature, they reported that the structure of beavers’ tooth enamel is full of iron. The presence of iron in their tooth enamel not only helps provide great protection, but also helps fight tooth decay. This understanding could help us learn more about tooth decay in humans, which is currently the number one chronic childhood disease in the United States. It could even lead to earlier detection of tooth decay and improve dental treatment methods.
The study found that beavers’ enamel contains “layers of well-ordered, carbonated hydroxylapatite ‘nanowires'” and is surrounded by a material rich in iron and magnesium.
Derk Joester, lead researcher and associate professor in Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, explained, “The unstructured material, which makes up only a small fraction of enamel, likely plays a role in tooth decay. In regular enamel, it’s magnesium, and in the pigmented enamel of beaver and other rodents, it’s iron.”
Joester argues, “A beaver’s teeth are chemically different from our teeth, not structurally different.” He believes that fluoride treatment can be improved by using an engineering strategy.
Who would’ve thought that beavers may lead us to new discoveries in oral health? Their unbelievably strong teeth may be a significant model for a better understanding of our own teeth and how to keep them healthy.
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