The mouth of a child is a terrifying thing to behold

Illustration for article titled The mouth of a child is a terrifying thing to behold

Inside the mouth of every child is a terrifying double row of teeth. Not that you'd ever know it — muscle, skin and bone prevent most of us from ever catching a glimpse of this extra dentition. Here's your chance to get a close-up look at what lies beyond the gum line.

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On some level, most people probably recognize that a child's erupting permanent teeth have to be situated more or less right on top of their smaller predecessors, in order to dissolve their roots and ultimately replace them (a process known as exfoliation).

Illustration for article titled The mouth of a child is a terrifying thing to behold
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What many fail to appreciate, however, is just how little room there is for exfoliation to take place. This picture [click for hi-res], taken by photographer Stefan Schäfer at the Hunterian Museum in London, reveals several permanent teeth crammed into a space so small, it almost looks like they're burrowing outward in a bid to escape from the skull entirely — the front teeth via the eye and nasal cavities, the lower teeth by way of the jawline.

Stare at it too long, in fact, and the skull's primary teeth almost start to resemble a set of pharyngeal jaws. Wonderful. Now I'll never be able to look at a child again without thinking about xenomorph dentition. Biology: Not only is it fascinating, it's also high-octane nightmare fuel.

Photographs by Stefan Schäfer [flickr | website]

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DISCUSSION

collinxvii
papercup mixmaster

This is strangely comforting. I still feel that I've dealt with more than my fair share of dental problems - but apparently it could hardly have been helped. FWIW, the rundown: My lower incisors (all four) came in sideways, so i had braces in 3rd grade to right that (which later necessitated a gum graft to repair the damage done by that much movement; and even later, now appears to be causing root damage, requiring multiple root canals); my upper canines never descended, and appeared to be absent until the orthodontist ran a much wider x-ray and found them pushing the wrong way, dangerously close to my sinuses, so I had surgery again to expose them and more braces to pull them down; all four wisdom teeth were impacted and needed surgical extraction; and all of this was likely because a) my teeth are relatively large and b) my jaw is relatively short - so I had a fourth surgery to extend my jaw (yes, by first breaking it) to prevent any further crowding-related problems.

I've found the whole process to be exasperating - but it's no wonder I had so much trouble. Our mouths are crazy places!

Alternate moral: This is a solid argument against intelligent design. If there was a designer, that entity was clearly batshit, and possibly sadistic.