Materials scientists studying beavers have discovered why the crafty rodents never get cavities: the enamel in their teeth is rich in iron. Iron, they found, resists acid more effectively than fluoride.
Scientific American reports:
If you zoom way in, tooth enamel looks almost like the weave of a basket "where each thread is made from thousands of nanowires," [according to] Derk Joester of Northwestern University. And in between those crystalline nanowires, Joester and his colleagues discovered a sort of amorphous glue. And that's where the fluoride hangs out, helping to stave off an acid attack of the enamel — in other words, a cavity.
Tests of beaver teeth revealed that the "glue" in the enamel coating the animals' famed chompers is rich in iron, and it's even better at preventing cavities than fluoride.
So will we be seeing iron-enriched mouthwash anytime soon? Well... there's a catch. A kind of huge one: iron stains your teeth a rusty color. But Joester is optimistic:
"We have the entire periodic table to play with minus a few things that are not too healthy. So I'm sure we can come up with a way to do what the beaver does but do it better and do it in a way that still maintains a nice smile."
Read the scientific paper in Science here.
Photo by Paul Stevenson.
[Via Scientific American]