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Even with a mouth full of teeth, most people don’t think about them unless they hurt, or when your dentist has nagged you enough to have them cleaned. But teeth are the first part of the digestive system, allowing us to chew our food so it can be broken down into the fuel our bodies need to survive. But here are at least ten things about teeth you probably didn’t know.


  1. We all are familiar with “baby teeth”, the first set of teeth we have when we’re born that fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth. Some animals like sharks replace their teeth every two weeks or so. Lines of teeth form behind the primary set and look like a conveyor belt of teeth ready to snap into place.


  1. Some people have a condition called hypodontia, meaning that they were born missing some teeth. Most of the time (up to 35%) these are wisdom teeth. Other folks have hyperdontia where they are born with extra teeth. On very rare occasions, people are born without any teeth, a condition known as anodontia.


  1. No matter how many, or few teeth you may have, your teeth are unique from everyone else’s. Like fingerprints, individuals can be identified by their tooth patterns helping police and forensic anthropologists identify victims of crime and individuals’ from ancient cultures.


  1. Teeth can also be found in places other than your mouth. Called teratomas, dental tissue can form in tumors in other parts of the body like other organs. Teeth have also grown on the roof of the mouth, under the tongue and the back of the throat.


  1. Healthy teeth need the saliva in your mouth to help protect them for the buildup of dental plaque. The liter of saliva produced each day also helps to keep bits of food from getting stuck between teeth.


  1. Our culture’s idea of beauty includes a set of bright white straight teeth. Other culture’s have a different take and crooked teeth are actually considered more attractive.


  1. Teeth are made from a substance known as enamel, and it is the most solid and hardest substance in the human body. Made from a mineral called hydroxyapatite, teeth have to be tough enough to chew through the foods we eat, but it is a very brittle material. That’s why chewing things like ice and biting down on hard candies are a bad idea as teeth can crack and break relatively easily.


  1. Teeth that break cannot repair themselves, and are the only organ in the body that cannot. Bones, blood vessels, your heart, lungs and other internal organs can heal themselves. But teeth once damaged are damaged until a dental professional can repair the damage.


  1. Aside from the expense of repairing teeth, they can be expensive. Some collectors have been known to pay tens of thousands of dollars for teeth from celebrities and other famous people. For example, one collector paid $ 30,500 for one of John Lennon’s teeth, and another paid $35,700(in today’s dollars) for a tooth from Sir Isaac Newton in 1816.


  1. When baby teeth fall out, most parents tuck them under a pillow for the “tooth fairy” who then leaves a few dollars or other treats. But in Norway, a tooth bank has been established to collect those baby teeth so they can be analyzed over time against the effects of pollution and other environmental issues.

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