Question of the Week Podcast

Question of the Week episode

Wed, 13th Mar 2013

Do other animals practice dental hygiene?

Models of human teeth as they exist within the alveolar bone (c) DRosenbach

Are humans the only species that practice dental hygiene to retain their pearly nashers? Plus we ask, could we cope if computers conked?

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  • Do any other species practise dental care?

    Hi, my name's Kwesi and I'm from London. My question is, are we the only species which practises dental care? I don't imagine other species brush their teeth, though I'm bracing myself to be proven wrong. yet in the many documentaries I watch, the animals, particularly feli...



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We had a dog with bad teeth at one stage. The vet told us to feed her raw chicken bones as the act of chewing and crunching the hard(ish) bones, helped keep the teeth clean.

I'm not sure how herbivores would manage but I'd imagine the occasional chew on a piece of bark might help keep the plaque at bay. bizerl, Thu, 14th Mar 2013

Perhaps the human love of high-sugar, highly processed, cooked and softened foods means that oral bacteria can make a good living in our mouths?
They break down sugars in the food, producing acids that eat into the enamel of the tooth.
Humans are very long-lived, and so the bacteria have an extended opportunity to attack our adult teeth which appear at around age 5.

The bacteria live in a biofilm (plaque) that is hard to remove.
There have been suggestions that some early humans may have used grass stalks for flossing; tiny silica crystals produced by the grasses can leave distinctive grooves in the teeth... evan_au, Fri, 15th Mar 2013

Mod: Moved to this week's QOTW CliffordK, Sun, 17th Mar 2013

I remember seeing a documentary once about tiny fish that would clean the particles of flesh left on the teeth of a predator after feeding. For the life of me, I can't remember the identity of the predator, whether an alligator or shark, I can't remember. Maybe it was a Moray Eel, I just can't remember but I'm sure I saw this on National Geographic Channel. I thought it quite interesting that the predator would allow such a cleaning without disposing of these tiny fish in the process. Nature is a marvelous thing isn't it! Ethos_, Sun, 17th Mar 2013

Chimps do JimBob, Sun, 28th Apr 2013

And crocodiles let birds pick stuff from their teeth. AndroidNeox, Sun, 12th May 2013

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