Written by: on February 8, 2021 @ 8:00 am

Join High Touch High Tech in celebrating
National Toothache Day
February 9, 2021!

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Far back into some of the most ancient human remains ever found, archaeologists see a constant human universal: toothaches!  Whether broken, lost, ground down completely, or abscessed so severely they impact the bone of the jaw, humankind has suffered with tooth pain since time out of mind.  Before the advent of modern scientific dentistry, humans experimented endlessly to find cures for tooth pain. Mummies show that the Ancient Egyptians made attempts to drill loose teeth and wire them into place.  Across cultures and times there are also numerous versions of false teeth, such as George Washington’s, which were not made of wood but in fact were made from rhinoceros ivory and the teeth of his slaves.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
George Washington’s Teeth

If thinking about the history of tooth pain makes you cringe, perhaps it will help to know that humankind’s struggle with our teeth is a result of only one of nature’s many designs.  At least some other beings we share this planet with have been much more fortunate!  Imagine you chipped a tooth.  Instead of lengthy visits and painful treatments, imagine the injured tooth just pops out and another one takes its place within 24 hours.  What lucky being experiences this design?  None other than the ruler of the oceans, the SHARK!

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The word shark is practically synonymous in our minds with teeth, or if you like, “Jaws.”  On top of their already incredible evolutionary assets such as their keen sense of smell and sixth sense for the invisible electricity of living things, an average shark can produce an unlimited supply of perfect teeth for as long as it lives.  Their jaws have a design much like a conveyor belt, with rows of teeth in waiting for the moment that a frontline “working tooth” becomes damaged.  The bull shark, widely thought to be the deadliest shark to humans because of its aggression and ability to adapt to a wide range of marine environments, has fifty rows of teeth-in-waiting, one on top of the other, tucked into its jaw.

Imagine if sharks suffered tooth problems like humans do.  For a creature that has no hands or feet, and no other way of grabbing prey at all, even one injured tooth would spell disaster.  Sharks’ jaws produce an estimate of 20,000 to 50,000 teeth in an average lifetime.  This means that fossilized shark teeth are the most abundant fossil on earth, as the many iterations of ancient sharks constantly improved upon their toothy design.  It’s thought that the evolutionary design of sharks’ teeth began back in the Devonian period 416 million years ago, when ancestral sharks may have eaten primarily plants.  With a boom in ocean life in the Cenozoic period 60 million years ago, sharks began to adapt to new sources of food, and with new food came the teeth that we associate with sharks today.  Sharks have been continuously evolving longer than almost any other animal on earth, and the constant, trouble-free perfection of their teeth is just another example of how long they have been evolving to fit their niche as the ocean’s top predator.  Hominids like us have only been around for 7 million years at most, and although dropping our baby teeth for our adult teeth is an amazing evolutionary advantage in itself, we have several million years to go as a species before we can drop our dental insurance completely!

If the stabbing pain of a toothache makes you feel like stabbing something, we’ve got the at-home science experiment for you! Check out our bag stab experiment and work out that discomfort in a FUN and productive way! See link below for supply list and lesson plan!
https://sciencemadefun.net/downloads/Bag%20Stab_EOTD_May%2011th.pdf

Sources:

The hidden history of dentistry:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Y5XpiCn3Q4

George Washington’s false teeth:
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/george-washington-didnt-have-wooden-teeth-they-were-ivory-180953273/

How and why sharks grow an unlimited number of teeth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgXB3okWeGg

The evolution of shark teeth:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GC85qSIGSWw

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