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Nature

Are Teeth Bones? And Where Do They Come From Anyway?

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Rachael Funnell

Social Editor and Staff Writer

clockFeb 17 2022, 12:58 UTC
are teeth bones

Are teeth bones? There are actually a lot of differences. Image credit: Dental Pro Content / Shutterstock.com

Are teeth bones? Polishing your pearly whites can certainly feel a lot like buffing a set of mouth bones. They’re both hard on the outside with slightly squishier bits on the inside and the same color, but are teeth considered bones?

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No, is the simple answer, and the more you learn about what teeth are made of, where they come from, and when they come in, the more magical they seem. It might be that your dentist was onto something all along.

Are teeth bones?

While they share many traits with bones, teeth are not considered bone and there are a few key differences that separate the two.

For starters, your bones’ surfaces are mostly collagen while teeth rock an enamel shell made up of hydroxyapatite, a mineral form of calcium phosphate. Incredibly your enamel is actually harder than bone and even steel, but it’s a lot more brittle meaning you’re unlikely to scratch it but you can quite easily chip it.

Unlike bone, however, enamel can’t fix itself.

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“Enamel is formed by incredible cells called ameloblasts, which die as soon as they have formed the enamel crown of a tooth,” said former standard NHS dentist Ollie Jupes to IFLScience. “As a result, the enamel can’t repair itself or regenerate.”

Another difference is that underneath a bone’s outer layer is a spongy layer of bone, while teeth have dentine beneath their enamel shell. “Dentine is similar in strength to bone,” Jupes continued, “but unlike bone, it can’t regenerate, it can only repair damage.”

“That’s where dentists come in useful. Dentine is full of microscopic channels containing fluid and nerve endings that will transmit pain if you really insist on developing cavities.”

are teeth bones
Children's jaws are packed full of teeth as the permanent set develops ready to replace the primary teeth. Image credit: Olga Popova / Shutterstock.com

When do teeth come in?

Should you fall folly to cavities, humans get something of a dress rehearsal in that we grow primary and permanent sets of teeth. Teeth start developing before birth. Babies are born with their primary set already well into development hidden beneath their gums which eventually begin poking through within a year.

From six onwards, children have both their primary and permanent teeth present which makes for some pretty freaky-looking x-rays. Once the adult teeth are through, however, you’re on your last chance as any teeth lost or broken won’t be replaced or regrown (though scientists are trying to regrow teeth).

Bone on the other hand will grow and regenerate throughout your life, so your childhood body plan doesn’t need to include telescopic leg bones that increase in length as you grow.

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Grossed out by kids’ jaws? Yeah, they are pretty weird… but have you seen “geese teeth”?!

All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current.


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