It sounds like something out of a horror movie–or something that Ash would use to take on the Evil Dead: a reciprocating saw that has shark teeth glued to the blade. But this “weapon” wasn’t designed to dismember, torment, or even threaten. It was designed to help us understand the way sharks’ teeth function. And the lessons it teaches reminds us of important factors we have to keep in mind when designing restorations for your teeth.
After mammals, sharks have the most diverse teeth in the animal kingdom (at least, among those members not currently extinct). But, unlike mammals, the relationship between the shape of teeth and their function isn’t always clear.
If you’ve ever watched videos of shark attacks, you know that a shark bite isn’t usually a simple closing motion. Instead, sharks often bite down on their prey, then rapidly shake their head from side to side, creating a powerful secondary line of force that quickly dismembers their prey.
To simulate this secondary motion and see how it related to teeth function and shape, researchers came up with the idea of gluing the shark teeth to a reciprocating saw and using it to cut through a large chunk of salmon.
They found that tiger shark teeth did the best job of cutting through salmon. The worst for cutting was the bluntnose sixgill. But there was a tradeoff–the tiger shark teeth dulled very quickly, while the bluntnose sixgill teeth showed little wear after cutting. The sixgill’s teeth also reflect that they tend to consume a different variety of prey, including more mollusks and crustaceans. Crushing and holding hard-shelled prey is an important function of their teeth. Tiger sharks, especially when mature, eat larger prey (including dolphins and whales) that needs to be cut into bite-sized pieces.
Your Teeth in Motion
Just as with sharks, it’s important to understand that your teeth have to be understood as being part of a complex system of moving parts, and if that’s not taken into account during restoration, then restorations like dental crowns or porcelain veneers won’t be fully functional.
That’s why neuromuscular dentistry is so important to our practice. Neuromuscular dentistry helps us understand how your teeth are functioning in relation to your jaw joints and muscles. It helps us understand when tooth problems like chipping and wear are really jaw problems. And it helps us avoid jaw problems when fixing tooth problems like decay.
It’s also important to understand that our teeth have diverse functions. The molars are designed to crush and grind, and they need to be made to stand up to the most intense pressures. The incisors on the other hand, are made to cut, sometimes, but also grip and hold food so you can tear it off. They need to be sharp, and, ideally, shouldn’t be subjected to too much force.
It’s also important to understand that your smile is an essential function of your teeth–almost as much as biting and chewing. Cosmetic dentistry isn’t a frivolous or secondary concern–it should be part of all dental procedures, especially those that involve the upper front teeth, which are most often displayed.
The best results come from a comprehensive understanding of your teeth. If you are looking for a dentist in The Woodlands who has this level of understanding, please call (281) 367-5559 today for an appointment with Dr. Scott Young, Purveyor of Fine Dentistry.