Here’s our monthly pick of the most interesting news about dental health and science.
Your Teeth Rule
Airplanes vibrate constantly as they move through the air, which ages on-board computers and internal systems fast. A group of researchers has developed a potential solution: design airline equipment that mimics the structure of tooth enamel.
Researchers from the University of Michigan say that using synthetic tooth enamel can protect and strengthen technology that needs to perform reliably in harsh environments.
The researchers believe that tooth enamel is nature’s perfect design. The structure of tooth enamel is virtually the same, no matter whether it comes from the tooth of a Tyrannosaurus, a walrus, a sea urchin or a human … etc. Other body structures vary widely across species and over time. But with dental enamel, the design works for pretty much everyone with teeth. And soon, it may work for delicate technology.
Veterinary dentist Dr. Barron Hall provides checkups and dental care for animals living in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries around the world. He’s worked on black bears, grizzly bears, brown bears, and every type of large cat. Providing a polar bear with dental care tops his professional wish list.
Hall belongs to Veterinarians Without Borders, which provides free healthcare for animals in sanctuaries throughout the world and train locals to care for the animals around them.
His most recent patient was a lion named Luke who lives at the National Zoo. Hall says that when you stare into the mouth of a lion, you quickly understand why they are called the king of the jungle.
“You could extract every tooth in their mouth, and with just the power of their muscle, they’ll still pop your head like a grape if they wanted to,” Hall said.
What Do Dentists Read?
Your dentist may flip through the waiting room magazines between appointments, but chances are that he or she would prefer browsing the amazing photos in “Teeth of Non-Mammalian Vertebrates.” The book offers a unique look at the teeth of fish, reptiles and amphibians teeth, from the hardened skin rasps of the lamprey to the fangs of the rattlesnake. In fact, the imagery is so cool that you might want to check it out too.
The Power of Dragon’s Blood
The Komodo dragon is the world’s largest lizard, growing up to about 10 feet in length and weighing up to 150 pounds. You definitely don’t want to get bit by one, even if you manage not to lose a body part you’ll almost certainly get a serious infection. The mouths of Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) contain up to 57 kinds of dangerous bacteria.
So how do the dragons survive the bacterial sewer in their mouths? A team of researchers from George Mason University took blood from Komodo dragons and analyzed it. They discovered that proteins that provide the dragons’ immunity to bacteria can be synthesized and used to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The researchers hope that future studies of these peptides could lead to new antibiotic medications that can fight deadly superbugs.
First World Dental Problems
Future dental anthropologists will be amazed by the extent of our dental problems. A few cases of dental disease exist in the human fossil record, but today we are heavily afflicted by malocclusions (when teeth don’t come together correctly), third molar impactions, caries, periodontitis and other dental maladies.
Why so many dental problems? Apparently our teeth are not adapted to the modern Western diet. The foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate were tough to chew and did not include refined sugar. Soft foods don’t stimulate jaw growth during childhood, leading to malocclusions, and sugary foods provide environments for caries-causing bacteria to thrive.