Like humans, most mammals with teeth possess incisors, front teeth that help us bite through larger, tougher foods so they can be chewed and swallowed. Few animals have incisors as unique and interesting as those of beavers, creatures that scientists believe may help us better understand—and protect—our own teeth and that were once about as big as bears.
One of the beaver’s defining physical characteristics is its oversized, discolored incisors (teeth that share two traits less flattering to human teeth). If you’re unhappy with the appearance of your teeth, Austin cosmetic Dr. Dan Matthews can help you restore a vibrant, healthy smile; call our office at 512-452-2273 to schedule your personal consultation.
Beaver Teeth Provide Clues about Enamel, Decay
Dental researchers hope the findings of a recent study into the enamel of beaver teeth help improve treatments to protect human teeth enamel.
Beavers may not brush, floss or have access to fluoridated water, yet their incisors are well protected against tooth decay. Beaver teeth are not structurally different from human teeth, but research shows they contain chemical variations.
Researchers at Northwestern University found that beaver’s teeth may be protected in part by the high concentration of iron, the presence of which gives beaver teeth their rusty red color. Study into the chemical makeup of beaver teeth also indicates that iron makes their teeth more resistant to acid and tooth decay than human teeth enamel, including enamel treated with fluoride. Scientists are hopeful that further study can help them better understand the mechanics of tooth decay and create better means of preventing premature enamel wear and tooth decay.
A Tusk … or a Tooth?
Beaver incisors don’t just hold up well against wear; they also stand the test of time.
A maintenance worker in northern Illinois was helping dig up an old building foundation when he found what was initially thought to be a fragment of mammoth or mastodon tusk, or a fang from a saber-tooth tiger. Museum analysis revealed it to in fact be an incisor from Castoroides ohioensis, a long-extinct species of giant beaver that lived during the Pleistocene epoch (nearly 12,000 years ago to about 2.5 million years ago).
Giant beavers averaged about 6 feet in length, although they could be as large as 7 feet; giant beavers could weigh nearly 300 pounds. That’s right, these rodents rivaled black bears in size, though evidence suggests they were herbivores.
Although giant beavers share many resemblances with modern beavers, they ironically differ in their incisors. The teeth of the giant beaver were proportionally longer and broader with more defined contours. The teeth of modern beavers, by comparison, are narrower and more chisel-like. It is thought that the giant beavers were not dam-builders as the beavers we know today, and may have used their teeth more for rooting and foraging than for stripping wood.
If you’re seeking a knowledgeable, compassionate dentist in the Austin, Texas, area, please contact Dan Matthews, DDS, online or call our office at 512-452-2273. Dr. Matthews is dedicated to helping patients achieve and maintain healthy, beautiful smiles.