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Study Finds Human Teeth are as Tough as Shark Teeth

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the thank-you-science dept.

Shark 85

sciencehabit writes "Don't feel inadequate. Even though your teeth are largely composed of a mineral softer than that found in sharks, new tests suggest that they're just as tough. In sharks, the material coating the teeth is largely composed of fluoroapatite, a fluoridated phosphate mineral that in its pure form is harder than the hydroxyapatite found in the enamel of human teeth. But by pressing tiny metallic pyramids into the surfaces of teeth from a shortfin mako shark and a tiger shark, researchers found that the enameloid coating on shark teeth is no harder than that of the enamel on a human wisdom tooth. The teeth are, in fact, of comparable hardness because their surfaces aren't pure mineral but instead are made of mineral crystals bound together with proteins so that the material doesn't shatter under a sudden impact."

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85 comments

Bite back (5, Funny)

dittbub (2425592) | about a year and a half ago | (#40861749)

So I should bite the shark back?

no, it's not fair to the shark (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | about a year and a half ago | (#40861979)

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/218901-overview [medscape.com]

The possibility of transmission of disease through human bites must be considered. Human bites have been shown to transmit hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herpes simplex virus (HSV), syphilis, tuberculosis, actinomycosis, and tetanus. Evidence suggests that it is biologically possible to transmit the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) through human bites, although this is quite unlikely. (SeePathophysiology, Presentation, and Workup.)

A shark is considerate and will masticate and shred you into edible pieces in the course of minutes, you will be out of your misery in no time.

But what you are proposing dooms the shark to die a slow miserable death due to the load of nasty diseases you carry in your mouth as a member of diseased lecherous species, homo sapiens.

Re:no, it's not fair to the shark (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862201)

what you are proposing dooms the shark to die a slow miserable death due to the load of nasty diseases you carry in your mouth as a member of diseased lecherous species, homo sapiens.

So.... I should bite the shark back? Sounds like plenty good revenge. You know, considering that the shark has just "masticated and shredded" me.

Re:no, it's not fair to the shark (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862347)

Spoken like a petty homo sapiens. A species should know when it is just food.

Re:no, it's not fair to the shark (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40862377)

I'm gunna go out on a limb and guess we make food out of them more than they do it to us... for better or worse. ;)

Re:no, it's not fair to the shark (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862929)

Under a few inches of salty sea-water, I think it's unlikely that any saliva-born diseases would be transmitted by a bite, successfully.

Re:no, it's not fair to the shark (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year and a half ago | (#40872109)

So you're saying we should hoist the shark out of the water before we bite it?

Unfortunately, we've only got 4 bicuspids, which means we're at a bit of a disadvantage going up against most sharks -- we can't puncture and shred their skin very quickly.

Re:no, it's not fair to the shark (1)

drkim (1559875) | about a year and a half ago | (#40864041)

...Human bites have been shown to transmit...

Yes, but although sharks do catch diseases, their biochemistry is so ancient and different than human, I wonder if they would be likely to catch traditional human diseases.

Any marine pathologists reading this thread?

Re:no, it's not fair to the shark (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about a year and a half ago | (#40864085)

But what you are proposing dooms the shark to die a slow miserable death due to the load of nasty diseases you carry in your mouth as a member of diseased lecherous species, homo sapiens.

But are sharks susceptible to theses human viruses?

Re:Bite back (3, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862217)

First thing I thought when I read the title was, damn, that sucks.

I mean, sharks are constantly breaking off their teeth and growing new ones, I'd want my teeth to be considerably stronger than a shark's.

Then, I realized that the comparison is just as bogus as so many other sensational headline "studies" because of the difference in tooth shape, any "comparison of strength" is going to be completely arbitrary. Is it a straight comparison of enamel hardness? Break-off strength from the root? Mean time (years or % of lifetime) between failure in ordinary daily use? How long one can go without brushing before decay sets in? Which species of shark? Which sub-culture of human?

Now, get off my lawn!

Re:Bite back (1)

somersault (912633) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866145)

Generally the harder a substance is, the more brittle it is.. they said that our teeth are a little stretch because of the proteins in them.. not sure they were even doing a "hardness" test. Of course, I haven't RTFA.

Re:Bite back (1)

somersault (912633) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866167)

Now I have RTFA, and I see that the summary was talking about both shark and human teeth as being shock resistant due to their structure.

Re:Bite back (1)

worf_mo (193770) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866159)

How long one can go without brushing before decay sets in? Which species of shark?

My sharks brush their teeth regularly! Independently of their species.

Re:Bite back (1)

Guignol (159087) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866649)

First thing I thought was "people are paying to do such studies ?"
And to think I was complaining about the olympics...

Re:Bite back (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40863817)

Not if they have "frickin' lasers"!

Re:Bite back (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866351)

Shark Teeth vs Human Teeth. Is like a Steel Sword vs. a Steel Hammer.

They are designed to work differently.

A sharks teeth are much sharper, and designed to rip flesh past normal skin.

Human teeth are general purpose, so we don't eat meat or vegetables as efficiently as other that have specialized teeth. However we can eat more.

In general our teeth don't perform that well as a weapon. We are better off punching, kicking, and using tools to fight back.

Re:Bite back (1)

TheLink (130905) | about a year and a half ago | (#40867263)

Human teeth are general purpose, so we don't eat meat or vegetables as efficiently as other that have specialized teeth. However we can eat more.

Human beings are one of the few animals in the world with digestive systems that are partly located outside their bodies. We call some of them kitchens and abattoirs.

This allows us to eat a wider variety of stuff, without having to carry around as many stomachs, gizzards etc, or directly support those metabolically.

Well then. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40861801)

Be right back, dumping several countries worth of Coca Cola into the ocean.

Let's see you try and gum us to death now. YOUR MOVE, SHARKS.

Re:Well then. (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862045)

Be right back, dumping several countries worth of Coca Cola into the ocean.

Let's see you try and gum us to death now. YOUR MOVE, SHARKS.

Too bad a shark continually grows new teeth throughout it's entire life.

Great, but.... (3, Insightful)

Clueless Moron (548336) | about a year and a half ago | (#40861803)

Terrific, but sharks replace their teeth an unlimited number of times during their lifetime. So they get nice new fresh sharp ones all the time. I'm stuck with my adult teeth for my whole life.

Re:Great, but.... (1)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about a year and a half ago | (#40861959)

Stem cells can be used to regrow teeth.

Re:Great, but.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40862057)

There is no viable treatment to do that now. Sure, it 20 years maybe, but that doesn't help anyone losing teeth now.

Re:Great, but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40862195)

wooosh!

Re:Great, but.... (2)

n7ytd (230708) | about a year and a half ago | (#40863165)

Stem cells can be used to regrow teeth.

I long for the day.

I had one of my incisors broken out and the root severely injured when I was 14 or so. Since that time, I've endured a partial crown, a full crown, a root canal, and an apicoectomy before earlier this year my dentist and I decided it was finally really dying (I'm 36 now).

The tooth was extracted in February and the socket packed with cadaver bone, stitched over and left to heal for 3 months. In May, an implant was placed in the bone and then stitched over again, this time to wait for 4 months while the bone hopefully knits successfully around the implant. In a few more months I get to go back to have my gums cut open for the third time this year and have the post and crown installed. If the implant fails, then plan B involves more expense and time.

I imagine a brave, new, flying-car world of the future, where anything other than a routine cleaning at the dentist will mean an extraction and insertion of a small pellet in the gum that will cause a new tooth to grow within 3 months.

Re:Great, but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40864117)

It might grow into a new tooth, but it's not likely to be the same shape or color as the others. May not even erupt into the right spot. Maybe not such a big deal for a back tooth, but if it's in the front, it might matter to you.
So, braces and another crown are looming...

Re:Great, but.... (0)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#40864129)

I imagine a brave, new, flying-car world of the future, where anything other than a routine cleaning at the dentist will mean an extraction

In developing countries, that is what a trip to the dentist often means, frequently without significant anesthesia. Feel lucky you are born in America (or whatever rich country you live in).

Re:Great, but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40864195)

Baby teeth, adult teeth, or both? If they can reset a fat cell into a stem cell, I'm all for it!

Re:Great, but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40863079)

Terrific, but sharks replace their teeth an unlimited number of times during their lifetime. So they get nice new fresh sharp ones all the time.
I'm stuck with my adult teeth for my whole life.

If you're lucky!

Fluoridation (1)

hotdoghead (1577461) | about a year and a half ago | (#40861825)

Does this mean that fluoridating our water and/or using a fluoride mouthwash are useless?

Re:Fluoridation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40861865)

The article basically says that shark teeth aren't as 'hard' as they thought (though it sounds like they may be more shatterproof than suspected).

Not sure why would think that has any bearing at all on the effectiveness of fluoridation on human teeth...

Re:Fluoridation (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year and a half ago | (#40863595)

The article is totally full of shit, at least if the summary is anything to go by, and provides little real information, because they conflate the terms "hardness", "toughness", and "strength", which are all totally different material properties.

Re:Fluoridation (2)

wisty (1335733) | about a year and a half ago | (#40864229)

Exactly. You'd expect human teeth to be "tough" (durable). We only have one adult set.

You'd expect shark teeth to be maintain a sharp edge, but they don't mind if a few break.

I'll use an example for slashdot's Nipponophiles - it's like a katana. Human teeth should be like the tough low-carbon hocho-tetsu, which is used in the core of the blade. Shark teeth should be like the higher carbon nabe-gane, which is used to form the sharp outer shell.

Re:Fluoridation (2)

feedayeen (1322473) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862003)

Does this mean that fluoridating our water and/or using a fluoride mouthwash are useless?

Fluoridation replaces the highly reactive hydroxyl group in our teeth's enamel (hydroxyapatite) with a much less reactive fluoride bond which reduces it's vurnability to acid, it's not done to improve the physical durability of our teeth.

Re:Fluoridation (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862279)

But, it does protect against acid, and with rising CO2 levels, the oceans are becoming more acidic... should we set up humanitarian shark tooth flouridation stations? We can make swimming robots that look and act like cleaner fish...

Re:Fluoridation (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862173)

No.

Longer answer: if you buy into the "fluoridation is harmful and doesn't actually do anything to prevent dental caries" you are going against 50 years of worldwide studies.

--
BMO

Re:Fluoridation (1)

hotdoghead (1577461) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862191)

Never said I didn't buy into it. I use a fluoride mouthwash. Just curious.

Re:Fluoridation (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#40863195)

Keep using it then. If your teeth have turned brown, you're overdoing it. If your teeth are not brown, then don't worry about it.

It's just that without more description in your initial message, it was too easy to attribute an anti-fluoridation intent to your message.

What you might want to look into is getting your teeth sealed. Doing this drops incidence of caries by 60 percent.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dental_sealant [wikipedia.org]

--
BMO

Re:Fluoridation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40863703)

What you might want to look into is getting your teeth sealed. Doing this drops incidence of caries by 60 percent.

Unless, of course, the dental technician doing the sealing doesn't get 100% of the bacteria cleaned off the tooth before the seal is applied -- in *that* case you practically guarantee a cavity because the sealant gives the leftover bacteria a toothbrush-free place to breed. Which is a good part of why sealing is generally not recommended for adults.

Gah.

Re:Fluoridation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40863923)

Citation needed, I've had quite a few sealants applied over the years and none of them have had that problem. I get X-Rays from time to time and my dentist keeps sealing when need be. Ultimately, he'd make far more money off me by giving me fillings, so I'm not quite sure where the motive is if it's not an effective treatment.

My insurance company when I had insurance covered it, they just wouldn't cover having it replaced with anything other than a filling if it failed.

Re:Fluoridation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40864125)

I find quite a few cavities under failed sealants.

Re:Fluoridation (1)

tbird81 (946205) | about a year and a half ago | (#40864979)

I had fissure sealants as a teenager. I asked my dentist about whether I needed new ones, she said there was no that much evidence about them.

Re:Fluoridation (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year and a half ago | (#40864519)

Longer answer: if you buy into the "fluoridation is harmful and doesn't actually do anything to prevent dental caries" you are going against 50 years of worldwide studies.

Not really. US folks point to the Kingston study, but did not control for refrigeration. Do you have more recent studies? Because there are several showing that the rates of caries do not increase in towns where fluoridation is stopped. Entire countries, such as Sweden have taken this approach, giving xylitol gum in school lunches, which provides a higher level of benefit.

We also have modern studies showing that silicofluorides transport heavy metals across calcium channels and epidemiological studies show that municipalities that use them have statistically higher levels of violent crimes. The calcium binding may also be a cause of the increase in osteoporosis. Proponents claim without basis that silicofluorides completely dissociate, but that's been shown to be untrue. But silicoflourides are much cheaper than sodium fluoride because it's a toxic waste product extracted from the smokestack scrubbers of fertilizer manufacturing plants.

And that's ignoring the problems of mass-medicating a population against their will, with wildly uncontrolled dosing.

Personally, I have well water at home with no fluoride present and I use a distiller at work because the local town puts silicofluorides in their water. I use xylitol toothpaste which interrupts bacterial biofilms. I've had one single-surface cavity in 12 years.

Re:Fluoridation (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865413)

Entire countries, such as Sweden have taken this approach, giving xylitol gum in school lunches, which provides a higher level of benefit.

This is just wrong. Sweden puts it in table salt, like we put iodide in table salt. It's actually more effective this way, and gets fluoride to people who have well water. Many countries do this. Germany, Spain, Switzerland, etc.

But silicoflourides are much cheaper than sodium fluoride

I'm ok with this logic here...

because it's a toxic waste product extracted from the smokestack scrubbers of fertilizer manufacturing plants.

Oh come on. I read a site claiming exactly that and they said it was just taken unrefined from the waste stream and put into the water supply. Yeah, really.

From waterloowatch.com

Hydrofluorosilicic acid is drawn from open air cooling lakes, as is. It is containerized in tankers, and shipped to your municipal drinking water supply. Hydrofluorosilicic acid remains contaminated with trace amounts of lead, arsenic, mercury and radioactive materials. It is delivered unrefined, and in none-pharmaceutical grade, to be used as water fluoridation 'product'.

What. That doesn't even make fucking sense.

We also have modern studies showing that silicofluorides transport heavy metals across calcium channels and epidemiological studies show that municipalities that use them have statistically higher levels of violent crimes

Yeah, we have the Boston study, but I'm skeptical that they adequately controlled for lead paint.

YMMV.

I use a distiller at work because the local town puts silicofluorides in their water.

You do realize that an activated charcoal filter (brita pitcher) is more than adequate for removing fluoride and that you're trying way too hard, yes?

bragging that you haven't had a cavitiy in 12 years.

I'm 47. I haven't had one, ever. I don't know what it's like to have one. Compare and contrast to my parents who had mouths full of metal by the time they hit 20 years old.

--
BMO

Re:Fluoridation (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865479)

>You do realize that an activated charcoal filter (brita pitcher) is more than adequate for removing fluoride and that you're trying way too hard, yes?

Disregard, this is wrong. Bone char is much more effective.

www.de-fluoride.net/3rdproceedings/80-83.pdf

--
BMO

Re:Fluoridation (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year and a half ago | (#40865587)

This is just wrong. Sweden puts it in table salt,

Are you sure your information isn't dated? WHO Data [scribd.com] .

Yeah, we have the Boston study, but I'm skeptical that they adequately controlled for lead paint.

FYI, a bunch of references at the bottom of this article [fluoridealert.org] .

I'm 47. I haven't had one, ever. I don't know what it's like to have one. Compare and contrast to my parents who had mouths full of metal by the time they hit 20 years old.

Yup, and mine too. Caries have decreased over time, independent of fluoridation. Studies listed at previous link.

Wisdom Teeth? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40861853)

How fucking useful is that fact when a lot of people get their wisdom teeth removed.

Re:Wisdom Teeth? Really? (3, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year and a half ago | (#40863585)

I'm guessing they tested on wisdom teeth precisely because lots of people get them removed, so there's probably tons of them available for doing random tests on. Are you volunteering to have your incisors removed so they can do some tests on those instead?

Re:Wisdom Teeth? Really? (1)

aurispector (530273) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866401)

Yes, they use wisdom teeth because they're readily available. But really all the study says is "apples are not oranges".

Re:Wisdom Teeth? Really? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year and a half ago | (#40870983)

I'm not a dentist, but I seriously doubt wisdom teeth are substantially different in composition from any other tooth, especially the other molars.

Re:Wisdom Teeth? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40863945)

Wisdom teeth are teeth, they have the same composition as the other teeth in the mouth. The main reason why they're removed is that we don't lose as many teeth as we used to and as a result the jaw lacks the space in order to hold the extra teeth. I take it you never thought that it was odd that wisdom teeth come in typically years after the other adult teeth come in. Or why some people never get them or don't ever get all of them.

Wish I had rows of teeth... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#40861885)

Getting tired of having the same old ones filled.

Could be worse .. could be having the old one pulled.

Re:Wish I had rows of teeth... (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862253)

Not so sure I'd like the rows of teeth thing, seems like it would severely limit tongue mobility. I think dolphins are the ones with the right idea, just keep regrowing teeth whenever you lose one. It does take a little longer to get the replacement, but it's a lot easier on your conversation skills.

But man, talk about giving dentists a hard time - well yeah, I *could* pay you $500 to fill a cavity, OR I could spend $50 to get plastered on some nice scotch and have some guy with a pair of pliers rip it out so a a brand new one grows it. Heh, regenerative medicine is going to be fun, and I just don't see the spammers doing nearly so well with it: "We can chop it off and grow it back twice the size!"

So frickin' humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40861887)

Qualify for frickin' laser beam attach on their frickin' heads?.

it's not the hardness (1)

ne0n (884282) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862037)

To misquote an old saw, it's not how hard it is -- it's how many you have and how you use them that matters. This is why sharks are above us in the Australian food chain.

Yo Mamma! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40862229)

Did you come to that conclusion based on something your mom said?

Re:it's not the hardness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40867357)

I thought some fish n chip shops served shark?

Shark teeth? (1)

ndogg (158021) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862041)

Don't shark teeth fall out a lot? I don't know if I would consider this high praise...

Re:Shark teeth? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862305)

What does falling out have to do with hardness? That's all about connective tissue. And frankly if you were to regularly take blows to the teeth from the tails of dolphins and large fish, I doubt your teeth would stay in your mouth either. Shoot, a strong blow from a comparatively wimpy human can easily knock out your teeth!

WTF are they talking about? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862069)

Toughness, strength or hardness. TFS seems to use the terms interchangeably.

I didn't RTFA. Hopefully the /. editor that is the only idiot.

Re:WTF are they talking about? (1)

tocsy (2489832) | about a year and a half ago | (#40862141)

I noticed that too, and it bothered me enough to comment. From the synopsis, "pressing tiny metallic pyramids into the surfaces" makes it sound as if they're doing hardness testing. I took a quick look at the actual scientific article and yes, they're doing micro- and nanohardness tests.

Re:WTF are they talking about? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year and a half ago | (#40863599)

Yep, and then the shitty summary talks about strength and toughness, which are totally different materials properties. You'd think a techie site could at least get technical terminology correct, but I guess not.

Dwayne Dibley.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40862263)

.. with frickin laser attached to his head

Damm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40862307)

How do i find a job that pays me to do such completely useless stuff like this?

Because... damm.. actual work and reality are no fun.

This just in... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40862737)

...human lawyers teeth tougher than shark teeth.

Misleading title is misleading. (1)

Phase Shifter (70817) | about a year and a half ago | (#40863219)

Granted /. got the error from their source but apparently someone didn't bother checking the abstract to the original paper.

Toughness [wikipedia.org] and hardness [wikipedia.org] are not the same thing.

OTOH (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about a year and a half ago | (#40863295)

Or on the other hand, the headline could have been: STUDY FINDS SHARK'S TEETH AS WEAK AS HUMAN TEETH.

(filter bypass lower case filler)

Shark Tales (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40863315)

I'd like to see a laboratory (ie; aquarium) controlled experiment to validate this. And if the human subject unexpectedly wins, we will need to remember these words of wisdom: Fish are friends, not food!

Yeah, ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40863763)

But let's be fair: humans with lasers aren't even 1/3 as cool.

Teeth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40864221)

I just wish we would get more when we lose them like a shark.

Haven't we exterminated them, yet? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#40864899)

I was unaware a shark's teeth were particularly tough. Sharp, sure. But since they were constantly being replaced, if anything, they'd be crapper quality, grown much faster.

This also can be read as... (1)

flirno (945854) | about a year and a half ago | (#40866803)

...shark teeth are just as weak as human teeth.

However sharks replace their teeth throughout their life.

This has been well known (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year and a half ago | (#40870451)

We've got enough force to bite through steel, but our teeth can't stand up to the long-term stress. Short-term (as in bite down and get hit hard enough in the jaw,) we could probably cut clean through, but risk shattering our jawbone since it's not as tough as our teeth.

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