They look like bones and seem to act like bones. You see them in skeletons, as well, lined up neatly in those medical study skulls. So, are teeth technically bones? In this article we are going to give you the answer to this and tell you a few things that you may not have known about your pearly whites. Let’s answer the question first of ‘are teeth considered bones?’ and we’ll go from there!
So, ARE teeth considered bones?
Well, technically the answer is ‘no’. Teeth have some things in common with your bones but some other aspects of how they function differ quite a bit. Let’s start with composition. Bones are made largely of calcium phosphate and collagen. They are living tissues that go through quite a bit of wear and tear in your life. Teeth, by comparison, are externally made of minerals like calcium phosphate which make up the hard outer layer, known as enamel.
One big difference that you will notice is in regards to what happens when you break a tooth versus when you break an arm. In the latter case, the bone pieces may be realigned and will mend over time. This is not the same case with your teeth, which require the assistance of a dentist when they become damaged. This is not to say that teeth don’t have a lot going for them, though. For instance, that enamel we are talking about is the strongest substance in your body.
That’s right, tooth enamel is the hardest substance in your body and that includes when we compare it to bones. This is because the enamel is 96% mineral in composition. Your teeth are a little different as beneath the enamel they composed of a hard tissue called dentin. This is a living tissue complete with nerves and blood vessels and each one of those teeth is alive.
Are teeth stronger than steel?
Enamel scores at a 5 on the Mohs scale for hardness, making it technically stronger than steel. It is also, however, more brittle. This is why eating with utensils or cracking some yummy nuts doesn’t scratch up your teeth as much as you’d expect, but awkwardly applied pressures such as those from biting open a bottle by twisting up the cap with your teeth can chip or break them.
Can your teeth get stronger?
This is what Fluoride is for and why dentist’s recommend that you start using Fluoride toothpaste early. Fluoride can help to strengthen existing enamel and to fight off early stages of tooth decay. This is very important, because while enamel is the strongest substance in the body, as we mentioned previously it does not mend the same way that a bone does when it is broken. Make sure that you brush them at a 45 degree angle for best results and fluoride coverage and be sure to floss once or twice a day to avoid any erosion from food trapped between your teeth. Keep the enamel that you have strong because once it’s broken then you are in trouble.
So, tooth enamel does not grow back?
No, tooth enamel will NOT grow back once it is broken. At this point, your dentist will come into play to diagnose the best way in which to deal with a compromised filling. It is important that you deal with it quickly, because the dentin inside of your tooth is vulnerable to infection and as the tooth is a living thing, not dealing with it can lead to the tooth dying and requiring extraction. Typical treatments for enamel damage are as follows:
- Bonding – Bonding is a process where your dentist etches the damaged spot so that a bonding adhesive may be applied, allowing for the application of tooth-colored resin. The resin is then hardened with the application of a special light which your dentist has so that it hardens to an appropriate texture. This process is also known as a ‘composite filling’ or a ‘white filling’.
” The resin is then hardened with the application of a special light.”
- Filling -Standard fillings come in a variety of types, such as silver amalgam (the most common, quite durable and inexpensive), Glass ionomer (popular for kids, this filling ‘leaks’ fluoride and may be combined with composite resin), Gold (the longest lasting), and Porcelain.
- Crowns – In some cases, the tooth may be shaved down a little and fitted with a protective ‘crown’. Many different materials may be employed for this, although porcelain is usually the most popular choice as it lasts a long time and mimics the appearance of a natural tooth quite effectively. Gold is another popular choice for crowns and lasts the longest (sometimes up to 15 years or more) but as it does not match the color of the regular tooth it is not as aesthetically pleasing an option to some (although it is perfect for back teeth!)
What happens to teeth when you die?
Remember how we said that your teeth are the hardest substance in your body? When you die, the bacteria that was trying to get your teeth in the first place cannot live on for very long, and without the natural onslaught of tooth decay that hard enamel sticks around. This is why you often see extremely ancient skeletons with a great set of pearly whites still set in the skull. Your teeth are THAT durable… but you’ve got to take care of them!
Some final words
Today we have answered the question as to whether or not teeth are considered bones. While they are NOT bones, they have some similar properties and some bonuses all their own. Sure, they don’t heal like regular bones, but their high mineral composition is literally stronger than steel. So take care of those pearly whites and keep that enamel strong and you can keep that wonderful smile well throughout (and beyond) your lifetime. Practice good oral hygiene, see your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings, and their longevity is practically guaranteed!