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The Power of Teeth

Teeth a blessing or a curse? Teeth evoke power by being our signature through function, esthetics, and psyche. The development of the animal kingdom highlighted teeth and jaws as the necessary tools for nutrition, protection, and creation of predators. Each species depended on different sizes and shape of teeth for their existence. A good example of power of the teeth is the modern-day elephant. The elephant erupts seven sets of molars…

over a life span. After the final set has worn the elephants die for lack of nutrition. This lack of dentition is responsible for 60% of elephant deaths. Development of the animal kingdom is dependent on the development of teeth.

Functionally, teeth and the supportive structures of the oral cavity represent the beginning of the digestive track. Chewing aids in digestive process, allows food to be a swallowed and prepares it for break down and ingestion by the rest of the intestinal track. By grinding foods into smaller sizes teeth protect the upper airway by preventing lodging of food in the upper airway thereby creating airway embarrassment or choking. Keeping the oral cavity healthy has implications for a healthy immune system and heart. By keeping one’s teeth, the bone structure of the jaws is protective for the brain sustaining trauma and gives form and function to the facial appearance. In addition, the animal kingdom as well as man use the oral cavity as a source of communications. Trying to communicate with our teeth or deformity of the tongue or lips can be fraught with frustration and difficulty in understanding. Thankfully, unlike the elephant mankind has developed multiple techniques for replacement of teeth. However, most replacements are less functional and fraught with problems. For example, the denture replaces no teeth but provides only about 25% of normal function of teeth. This is not to mention the bone loss and facial changes accompanied with tooth loss. The advent of dental implants has given more hope in restoring form and function to the oral cavity.

The public has always been keenly aware of the esthetic power of teeth. This power has been harnessed by people in public view. Examples are Hollywood actors, politicians and mass media. An attractive smile and face are definite keys to a successful public life. Studies have shown that individuals with attractive smiles and faces are more successful than those who do not have these qualities. People in the public eye have gone out their way to obtain a winning smile through modern dental techniques.

My recollections growing up did not spawn very fond memories of the dentist or my perception of teeth. I vividly remember my grandparents without their dentures, which adorned the side tables at night captured in a cup of tap water. My grandparents without their teeth were almost unrecognizable. I will never forget my grandfather’s flirting with death do to a partially chewed piece of chicken lodged in his airway. Also, the time my sister had a lollipop stuck in her throat as she was turning shades of blue from lack of an airway. The power of teeth was reinforced when my mother went to a Halloween party masqueraded as a witch and had blackened out her front teeth. I ran away from her do to her appearance. Such was the impact of teeth on my psyche during my formative years.

In summary, the power of teeth represents a large part of who we are historically, functionally, aesthetically, and psychologically. In our humanity we owe it to ourselves to utilize the power of teeth to contribute to our health, esthetics, and psychological well-being. The price to be paid is from losing power one was given at birth. Teeth a blessing or a curse. A blessing worth keeping and enjoying for a lifetime.

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