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15 fascinating facts about teeth

Over a lifetime we develop 52 teeth, spend about 38.5 days brushing them, use them for a host of functions like eating, speaking and pride ourselves on flashing them every time we smile.

But although teeth are an everyday part of life and an essential tool in general health and wellbeing, how much do you really know about your teeth?

Here are 15 fascinating facts about teeth that could just see you smothering a pearly white grin next time the topic pops up in a round of trivia.

Teeth are tough

The enamel that coats our teeth is the toughest substance in the human body. That said, it’s not impervious to wear and tear. A whole range of food, drinks and dental habits can see this enamel become weakened, and when that happens teeth become prone to decay.

In fact Australian adults aged 15 and above have on average 12.8 missing , decayed or filled teeth. And these tough pearly whites should never be used for purposes they’re not intended for like prising apart Lego or opening bottle tops.

Some numbers to sink your teeth into

Humans have 20 baby teeth, and 32 adult teeth (counting the wisdoms). By way of comparison, dogs have 42 teeth, cats have 30 and a snail can have up to 25,000. Meanwhile, the blue whale might be the largest mammal on the planet, but it has no teeth at all.

Not everyone has 32 adult teeth

Some humans have extra teeth (supernumerary teeth) and some have too few.

In some instances the wisdom teeth do not develop, while in other extremely rare situations some, a few or all baby or adult teeth do not form. This is known as congenitally missing teeth or hypodontia when a few teeth are missing, and anodontia when all teeth fail to erupt.

Teeth can grow in all different directions

Teeth can grow sideways, or even backwards, and there is no way to be 100% sure how teeth will come through. On a good note, an orthodontist can move these teeth into correct alignment and line up your perfect smile!

There’s a lot in a name

Baby and adult teeth have a number of different names. For example, baby teeth are also known as primary teeth, milk teeth and deciduous teeth. The term deciduous is derived from the Latin word “decidere,” which means to fall off or be shed, like leaves from a tree.

Adult teeth can be called permanent teeth or secondary teeth  

You can only see a fraction of a tooth

Although the part of the tooth we can easily see often attracts the most attention, this crown only represents about a quarter or a third of the actual tooth. The rest lies beneath the gumline.

About half the surface of your teeth lies between them

Just under a half of your teeth’s surface (40 per cent) lies between them. That’s why flossing is so critical for effective dental hygiene. Flossing helps clean the debris and plaque build-up that happens between teeth.

Your jaw gets smaller over time

If you think your teeth are becoming more crowded as you get older, it could be a sign your jaw is shrinking. A 40-year study found the jaw, and particularly the lower jaw, shrinks as humans age.

Teeth can come through with a cavity

Technically cavities cannot form before a tooth erupts and meets with bacteria. However, in some cases the cells in a developing tooth dissolve the tooth from the inside out, much like a cavity. 

Your body cannot heal cavities

Although the human body is pretty talented, it cannot heal cavities. Basically, that’s because tooth enamel is made of 90 per cent minerals rather than cells.

Baby teeth are space maintainers

Baby teeth might be designed to be superseded, but don’t underestimate the important role they play. Baby teeth are space maintainers that hold the position for the incoming permanent teeth. That’s why it’s really important baby teeth are well cared for. If one is lost prematurely an orthodontist should be contacted, otherwise other teeth might start moving in to fill the gap. 

The upper palate doesn’t fuse until about 16

Long after birth the human jaw continues to grow and expand, and this usually happens right up until children reach their teens.

That’s why the teen years are considered ideal for orthodontic treatment – the jaw is still growing, and the body is still busy building bones. Meanwhile, research indicates the upper palate of the mouth doesn’t fully fuse until a child reaches about 16.

Whether you are right or left handed affects how you chew

It turns out being right or left-handed goes far beyond the hand you write with. It also affects which side of the mouth you are most likely to use for chewing. So, if you’re right handed, you’re more likely to chew on the right-hand side of your mouth, and if you’re left-handed, the majority of chewing happens on the left.

Tooth prints are unique

Just like fingerprints, tooth prints are unique to every single person. Oh, and so are tongue prints!

Two minutes is longer than you think

In the interests of maintaining good oral hygiene and minimising the potential for decay, it’s recommended everyone cleans their teeth twice daily for at least two minutes, and also flosses once a day.

The reality is, people spend far less time actually brushing their teeth than this recommended time. Research indicates the average person only actually brushes for 45 to 70 seconds.

About Norwest Orthodontics

Norwest Orthodontics specialises in helping you achieve a great smile, no matter your age. We feature a range of orthodontic treatments that span from early intervention right through to remedial adult work.

We also have a suite of treatments available that include discreet, removeable Invisalign braces, and welcome the opportunity to work with you to achieve the smile you’ve always dreamed of.

You can learn more about our services, or contact us here

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