What causes a tooth to rot

Aha : Why do teeth last so long after death?

Another year is coming to an end and the ravages of time are gnawing at everything. What remains? Let's take a look at East Africa, the cradle of humanity. Countless hominid fossils have been recovered there, mostly jaw fragments and teeth, millions of years old. Judging by teeth, our ancestors lived on nuts and seeds. Later they switched to meat and softer foods. Their teeth were less worn out and their molars tended to get smaller.

Modern man has 32 teeth. They are anchored with their roots in the jaw and have a cavity inside that contains blood vessels and nerves. Above this lies the dentin, which makes up the main mass of the tooth. Finally, the enamel forms the outer covering of the crown.

“Other parts of the body are constantly renewing themselves: our skin, the organs, including the bones,” says Kurt W. Alt from the Anthropological Institute at the University of Mainz. What does not renew itself is the tooth enamel. Its crystalline structure made of hydroxyapatite makes it harder than all bones. After death, nothing lasts as long as he does. If microorganisms in the soil had already broken down our bones and dentin, only the enamel sheaths resisted decay, says the dentist and anthropologist Alt.

If there are only a few molars or incisors left, perhaps we will also think about our diet: Hominids of the snack, mainly soft food. Our implants could also be considered. Already 2500 years ago the Etruscans had their teeth replaced. The fine gold ribbon prostheses, worn exclusively by women, are still considered a highlight in the history of dentistry to this day. Thomas de Padova

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page