Yes, it is once again everyone’s favorite week of the year: Shark Week. For one week, every year, we humans become captivated by these living fossils that dart through the ocean water, instilling fear in even the most daring human. For the best, concise description of a shark’s life, we turn to Mr. Hooper from the oceanographic institute in Jaws: “what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks, and that’s all.”
Sharks and Dental Health
With all this eating, what happens to their teeth? Most of us know that shark’s not only have enormous, terrifying teeth, but that they constantly get replaced throughout life. No dentures for an old timer shark. What’s even more incredible, however, is that sharks, in spite of their voracious eating habits, do not develop cavities.
Humans develop cavities due to (for the most part) our love of sugar. And even if were aren’t eating glucose, our affinity for carbohydrates causes cavities as complex molecules are broken down into simple sugars that bacteria in our mouth use to make lactic acid—hence cavities. Sharks, of course, don’t have much access to sugar like us, which spares shark teeth the inconvenience of dental caries.
But there’s another even more fascinating reason for sharks’ cavity-free mouths: their teeth seemed to be coated with fluoride! According to research published last year in the Journal of Structural Biology, at least two species of sharks—makos and tiger sharks—feature teeth whose outer coatings “contained one hundred percent fluoride.” Basically, sharks swim around with this permanent coating of toothpaste. This fluoride comes from fluorapatite, which coats sharks’ teeth. It prevents cavities, but also is less-soluble in water than hydroxylapatite—the material that coats our teeth—making their teeth perfectly suitable for their underwater life. The research focused only on these two species, but there’s good reason to believe that this biological feature may be extended to many other species.
Will humans one day have the luxury of a natural coat of fluoride covering their teeth, or will we be slaves to the toothbrush forever? We can only hope that someday a mad scientist combine our genes with that of a shark so we too can eat without having a care in the world for getting dental cavities.
Dr. Potts is a gentle, caring dentist who uses the most advanced materials and procedures available. He practices comfortable, health-centered dentistry, with a strong emphasis on getting to know each patient. In addition to his technical proficiency, Dr. Potts is a careful listener. He makes sure to understand what you want and will explain beforehand what treatment is best for your individual needs, along with all options available to you. Check out our Twitter, Facebook page, and website.