While browsing Reddit the other day I came across a question that left me stumped. 'Why are humans the only animals to take meticulous care of their teeth?' I thought about all the pets I’ve owned. Max, my golden retriever, never cleaned his canines...although he did have a toothbrush chew-toy. My cat, Stella, spent hours grooming her fur but never paid particular attention to her teeth. So how did we bipeds evolve this obsession with oral hygiene?
Firstly, it’s not exactly true that other animals neglect their pearly whites. Some animals use trees, roots, or rocks to sharpen their teeth and keep them in working condition. Beavers for example, have teeth that grow continuously and must be filed down by gnawing on wood. Animals also have special enzymes in their saliva that are better able to destroy cavity-causing bacteria.
Secondly, humans eat more sugary food than any other animal. Sugar is made of carbohydrates, a delicacy for bacteria that live in the mouth. Whether carnivores or herbivores, no other animals enjoys as many sweets as we do. It’s not often that you see a lion eating a candy apple at a carnival fair or enjoying a Coke and popcorn at the movie theater.
Finally, the lifespan of humans is much longer than most other animals. If our teeth are to last us close to a century, we better do our best to keep them in tip top shape. We humans just have to bite the bullet and keep our teeth pristine. Visit your dentist every six months for cleanings to ensure a life-long healthy smile!
*Guest blogger Helen is a dental student at the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry in San Francisco.