When And How Did Teeth Evolve?
An armored fish – about 420 million years ago – is the first teeth-bearing creature that we know about. Sharks evolved around the same time – and you know what their mouthful of flesh tearing fangs can do!
Teeth actually evolved from fish scales being modified – according to scientists who determined that both teeth and scales showed identical tissue samples.
Paleontologists use teeth all the time to categorize dinosaur fossils and determine whether they were carnivores (meat eaters) or herbivores (plant eaters). Carnivores have sharper teeth for killing their prey and tearing off chunks of meat. Herbivores have mostly flat molar type teeth because they have to chew and grind the plants they eat.
We humans are omnivores – able to sustain ourselves on either plants or animals. Thus, our teeth are a combination of sharp front teeth for cutting and tearing meat – and flat rear molars for chewing and grinding plants.
About 6 months after we’re born, we develop our first set of primary teeth – about 20 of them. As adults, we have 28 to 32 permanent teeth in our mouth – half on the upper jaw and half on the lower jaw – not including up to 4 rear molars that we call “wisdom teeth.” In some occasions, there are folks who lack wisdom teeth – but, that doesn’t mean that they are not smart people! Of course, I jest!
It is very important for us to take good care of our permanent teeth – because that’s all we get. When they go bad, we will end up using full or partial dentures – and who can enjoy spending their quality eating time when they have teeth that may come loose or trap food particles underneath them. Either situation is not at all pleasant – or comfortable – and, can be downright embarrassing!
A Bit Of Teeth Trivia
Some lucky mammals have teeth that keep on growing and growing – over and over again – like the energizer bunny. These blessed critters include beavers, some rodents, guinea pigs, and rabbits. Since they chew some pretty hard stuff, they have an “enamel gland” that constantly restores the hard enamel coating – to keep their chompers strong.
Humans and giraffes have the least teeth – 32 – while one variety of armadillo has the most teeth – 252 – just like dolphins. Believe it or not, sharks only have about 50 – but, when I look into their open mouth I’d swear they had 500!
Wild animals don’t need to make a dentist appointment. Carnivores clean their dentalware by chewing on bark, grass, sticks, bones, etc., after one of their big meat meals. Herbivores get an automatic cleaning because they eat high fiber plants that will clean their teeth as they eat.
But, those of us who walk on two legs, go to work every day, check our emails, mow the grass, and do other human type stuff – must be responsible for our own mouth – making sure that when we make our regular dentist visits, it’s only for a professional cleaning – not something more serious.
Could This Happen To You?
“I am very religious when it comes to brushing my teeth. I do it daily. But, almost every time I go to the dentist, I find that I have a couple of cavities. Maybe, I just have weak teeth that are more susceptible to deterioration?”
Alas, me thinks that this person may not understand the proper and hygienic way to cleanse their mouth of food particles and bacteria.
Do you know that any bacteria proliferating inside your pie hole will give you bad breath – not to mention a host of cavities – as they nibble their way through your tooth enamel?
Want to keep yourself from becoming a cavity prone victim?
Cleaning Your Teeth – The Hygienic Way
The optimum number of times to clean your teeth is – right after you eat any food – or slug down any sugary drink. But, at a minimum, do it twice a day.
Step 1 – Floss
Many people make the mistake of not flossing at all. WRONG THINKING!
If you don’t floss, you will never, get all the food particles out from between your teeth – ever! The bacteria will find that nice, wet crevice – that has food stored just for them – and they’ll hunker down – making a home right there – in the dark, damp places between your teeth – and happily start stripping off your tooth enamel. And, guess what? Cavity time!
Most will brush their teeth BEFORE they floss. Well, at least they’re flossing. But, it’s a better technique to floss first – to loosen the food particles. Then, use the toothbrush to clear the particles away.
How To Floss
- Cut off a string of floss – 12 to 18 inches – or so – should be enough – but, you’ll quickly know how much you need after a couple of flossing episodes.
- Wrap most of the floss around a finger on one hand – and do a couple of wraps around a second finger on the other hand.
- Push the floss between the teeth – pulling it back and forth into each of the inside gum pockets – wrapping the floss halfway around each tooth to ensure that the front side of the gum pockets are cleaned.
- Alternately remove a wrap from the first finger and add a wrap to the second finger as you continue to floss between the rest of your teeth – top and bottom. This gives you a fresh, clean section of floss for each tooth
And, that’s all there is to it! Moving on…
Step 2 –Toothpaste And Toothbrush Time
- Add a dollop of toothpaste on the bristles of the brush – just a small bead across the width is enough. Toothpaste commercials want you to run a longer bead of toothpaste along the entire length of the toothbrush – but, it’s more than you need. The toothpaste manufacturers are just trying to get you to use their product faster – so, you’ll buy it more frequently. A great ploy, isn’t it?
- Brush up and down – top and bottom – inside and out. The up and down motion pulls the food particles – loosened by the flossing – away from the cracks and crannies in which they were hiding.
- If you also want to brush left-to-right AFTER brushing up and down, that is fine. I like to do this as an added measure.
Don’t Forget To Brush Your Mouth And Tongue!
You wouldn’t believe the number of well intentioned humans that don’t perform this simple extra step to a clean mouth!
Bacteria lurk in any place inside your mouth that you don’t clean. PERIOD!
Here’s an analogy. You’ll have a better understanding of how important tongue brushing is after reading this:
If you brush your teeth – and, you DON’T brush your tongue and all over the inside of your mouth – it’s like washing your body until it’s sparkling clean and putting on yesterday’s dirty, smelly clothes! You wouldn’t do that now, would you?
So, after you brush your teeth…
- Brush your tongue – front to back – side to side – and underneath – all around.
- Brush the inside of both cheeks and both lips the same way.
And now, it’s time to move on to the next step.
Replace your toothbrush quarterly – at a minimum. They get dirty, too. Don’t think that just because they are cleaning brushes that they don’t collect bacteria and germs.
Opt for using an electric toothbrush – like my favorite, Sonicare. They do a much more thorough job than the sample toothbrushes the dentists give you. And, replace the brush heads quarterly – just like the manual brushes.
Step 3 – The Waterpik!
For those of you who already use a Waterpik, you know that no matter how well you floss and brush, there are still random food particles that can only be removed by a shot of water under pressure that comes from this amazing tool.
There is a school of thought that this step should happen before brushing. Some experts say that doing so makes brushing more effective. Personally, I prefer doing it after brushing – but, it doesn’t matter – just make sure it is an included step in your teeth cleaning regimen.
How To Use A Waterpik
There are water pressure settings ranging from 1 to 10 – each setting adds 10 psi (pounds per square inch) water pressure.
For newbies, start off at a modestly lower range – say setting 4 or 5 – and, slowly build up to the maximum setting a little at a time. That will give your teeth and gums time to get used to it.
There are several sizes of tips that come with the Waterpik. Personally, I like the tip with the largest opening – to cover more territory – and I use it at the highest setting – 10 – which puts out water at 100 psi. It really blasts away any bits of food trying to hide between my teeth!
- The first pass – Run the Waterpik up and down the spaces between the teeth – inside and out – from the top next to the gum line – moving to the bottom edge of the teeth.
- The second pass – Move the Waterpik from left to right along the gum line – where the gums meet the teeth – inside and out – top and bottom. Continue with the second pass until the water is depleted from the Waterpik reservoir – even if you are back at the beginning. It doesn’t hurt.
I add a half teaspoon of baking soda to my Waterpik water. It gives a boost to the cleaning effect. Just remember to run the Waterpik long enough to clear the lines after use – so, the baking soda doesn’t clog them.
I’ve had good results using this Waterpik – so, you may want to look it over. It’s been a great, dependable piece of equipment!
Step 4 – The Finale
Last, but not least, swish some mouthwash around in your mouth for a minute or so. I’m partial to mint-flavored Listerine.
Squeeze the mouthwash between your teeth, and back and forth to cover your tongue and the insides of your mouth. This last step is the final curtain for any super bacteria that may have possibly survived the first 3 steps. If you feel a slight hint of burning, that tells you that this liquid has found and terminated the last of the germs! Take that, you microscopic scoundrels!
One Last Tip – For Those On The Go
If you find yourself out and about – without toothpaste, toothbrush, or mouthwash – there are a few things you can do to keep from getting that telltale bad breath – created by any germs born from the lunch you just had.
After all, you don’t want anyone backing away from you – like you have the plague – if you’re trying to tell them something important later in the afternoon.
- At lunch, have a side order of some crunchy vegetables like celery, broccoli, or cucumbers. They help to scrape plaque off your teeth and scrub away some of those odor-making bacteria.
- You can also eat a bit of hard cheese. The cheese enzymes can deactivate bad breath causing bacteria. And, since there is almost no sugar in most cheeses, it won’t contribute to the creation of bacteria.
- Don’t eat garlic or onions! Do I have to explain why? Nuff said!
- Don’t drink or eat anything with sugar in it. Drink water and / or black coffee with no milk or sugar. Sugar is the friend of bacteria – making it your enemy.
- Chewing sugarless gum can be a godsend, too – helping to wash away some of the food particles.
- When all else fails, you can at least make a restroom stop and use a wet, folded paper towel to lightly and quickly scrub some of the food particles off your teeth.
This is NOT a substitute for the 4 steps to a truly hygienic mouth. But, it will just get you through the day!
So, now, what do you have to say? Do you have any suggestions? How do you keep your mouth clean and socially acceptable? Comment below or email me at email@example.com.