Panda teeth could hold key to stronger dentures
With longer life expectancies and more emphasis on appearance than ever before, it’s no surprise that demand for dental prosthetics is growing year on year.
When our natural teeth fail us for whatever reason, we want beautiful, high performance replacements that look and feel just like real teeth – and when it comes to strong dentures, science is looking to the giant panda for clues!
Giant pandas are forced to spend up to 14 hours a day eating bamboo because of its low nutritional value, and as they gnaw their way through more than 20 kilos of the stuff each day, their teeth experience extreme wear and tear. But research has shown that not only do panda teeth grow throughout their lives – they can also regenerate to repair small cracks and fissures.
Panda tooth enamel is made of the mineral hydroxyapatite, whose fibres are arranged in a special structure that reduces the growth of small cracks, aided by water.
Chinese researchers are studying this material in hopes that it will inform the development of a new generation of materials that can be used to bionic dentures and durable ceramics that won’t crack or chip. Fascinating!