Beavers Show How To Protect Tooth Enamel

  • Posted on: May 18 2015

Tooth enamel protects teeth from cavities and decay, but it can be eroded away from acid and other things. While avoiding acidic drink and foods is one way to protect tooth enamel from eroding away. Beavers may not have access to dental care, but they do know how to keep their teeth healthy and protect their enamel. Beavers include a lot of iron in their diets and it turns out this could be the secret to protecting tooth enamel. This discovery could help dentists learn more about human tooth enamel and new ways to protect it.

“We have made a really big step forward in understanding the composition and structure of enamel — the tooth’s protective outer layer — at the smallest length scales,” said Joester, lead author of the study and an associate professor of materials science and engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“The unstructured material, which makes up only a small fraction of enamel, likely plays a role in tooth decay,” Joester said. “We found it is the minority ions — the ones that provide diversity — that really make the difference in protection. In regular enamel, it’s magnesium, and in the pigmented enamel of beaver and other rodents, it’s iron.”

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