Why Do Teeth Break?

Human teeth are among some of the hardest substances on earth, and are certainly one of the hardest organic compounds the world has ever seen. Recent studies testing the properties of tooth enamel have put human teeth on the same level as sharks for toughness of teeth, meaning our teeth are almost as hard as those of a great white or a hammerhead. But human teeth break all the time, whereas the teeth of carcharias megalodon, for instance, are still found intact some 65 million years after the animal has lost said tooth. Why is this? 

Cave Teeth

In order to answer this question, we need to look at what the human uses its mouth for; eating, chewing, biting, and speaking. Of these activities, speaking is unlikely to diminish the enamel on teeth, even if you are a particularly busy public speaker. The answer, then, must be hidden in the rest of these things, in the activities associated with eating.

The activities themselves do not cause the wearing out fo enamel. How do we know this? From finding mummies and well preserved skeletons of early humans who, presumably, used their dentition throughout the entirety of their lives, and they have no cavities, and hardly any enamel damage at all. Missing teeth are usually a result of fighting or of some sort of blunt force trauma. In reality, it is safe to assume that cavemen had better teeth than we do. 

Diet And Habits

The answer lies in what we consume, not how we do so. Fossilized bacterial vultures in cavemen tended to be of a certain variety, and cavemen did not have a big diversity of bacterial cultures in their mouths, it usually tended to stay to monocultures. The bacteria that live in our mouths today do so because of the stuff we eat, processed foods and carbohydrates, delicious, fulfilling carbohydrates, are to blame. Bacteria live off of sugars and carbs, and make acidic by products (essentially bacteria poop), that eat the enamel off of your teeth. This weakens the tooth structure, and causes the tooth to become more brittle, especially as the internal structures are involved. You see, your tooth is not a solid, it is layered, and filled with goop. This goop is a mass of nerve endings and capillaries covered in soft material, and in turn, this is covered in a layer of dentine, which is then covered by a layer of enamel. If the dentine is compromised, the tooth structure will weaken and become brittle, and the tooth will eventually cave in on itself. 


The other issue that we have is that calcium and fluoride, the two things that make the enamel hard and healthy, can be leached out of the enamel compounds by way of acids and sugary drinks. Soft drinks, energy drinks and sodas are known to leach the calcium from the enamel. They literally break the bonds between the calcium and everything else in the enamel, and dissolve calcium, after which fluoride can freely leach out of the tooth. Antibiotics, another recent invention can also be bad for your tooth structures, and can also weaken them, as can drugs like amphetamines and MDMA.