Beavers are amazing creatures. They’ve often been declared to be second only to humans in their ability to alter their environment by building structures like their dams and lodges. The largest beaver dam in the world is about 2800 feet long and is visible from space. (Plus, it’s still growing!)
Here in Washington we have many beavers, which means you can easily get out to view their handiwork, and, if you’re lucky, catch a sight of them in action. It’s truly amazing to watch them gnaw at trees with their teeth, and it makes you wonder just how they do it.
One of the benefits that allows rodents to chew through wood, plastic, brick, and almost everything else they encounter is that their central incisors–the four teeth in the middle of their upper and lower jaws–never stop growing. To keep their incisors under control, in fact, rodents are compelled to keep chewing to keep these teeth worn down. Beaver teeth, for example, can grow up to 4 feet a year–think what a mouthful that’d be if they didn’t keep them worn down!
Using their ever-growing teeth, rats and mice can burrow into buildings and homes and often cause significant mischief by chewing on insulation for electrical cables. Squirrels will do with with telephone lines and power lines, too.
You may have noticed another advantage of beaver teeth if you’ve ever taken a close look at their incisors. Beavers don’t have bright white enamel like humans and many animals do, their enamel is typically orange or brown. That’s because their enamel contains iron, which makes it even stronger. This is sometimes seen in other rodents, though typically only when the rodent is sick.
Beavers also use this to their advantage by only having enamel on the front of their teeth. The rest of their teeth are made of softer dentin. As a result, their teeth tend to wear less at the front and more at the back, creating constantly sharpened teeth. This is actually pretty common in the animal world. Sheep, for example, break through the crowns of their teeth when they’re very young, then wear away the dentin in the middle more than the enamel around the sides, creating small cups with sharp edges ideally suited to cutting up the tough grass they eat.
Looking at the specialized adaptations of beavers, it’s clear why they have the tools necessary to chew on wood, but we don’t. If you wear down your teeth, they won’t grow back, but will remain shortened, requiring porcelain veneers or dental crowns to lengthen.
Our dentin is also not designed to be exposed. When it’s exposed it can lead to sensitivity (as in the narwhal), and your teeth may wear away even quicker than before.
And you don’t have special iron-augmented enamel designed to be extra strong for cutting through wood. When you chew on hard items, you’re more likely to crack your teeth.
If your teeth have been worn down or damaged by chewing on things you’re not supposed to chew, we can help. Please call 509-368-7788 or 509-228-3998 to talk to a cosmetic dentist in Spokane or Spokane Valley at Collins Dentistry & Aesthetics.
Or office in Spokane is located at:
3151 E. 28th Ave.
Spokane, WA 99223
Office phone # 509-368-7788
Our office in Spokane Valley is located at:
507 N Sullivan Rd. Suite 2
Spokane Valley, WA 99223
Our Spokane office phone number is: 509-228-3998