You may not think of your mouth as an interesting place but there are some strange, wonderful, and interesting things about your mouth that you may not be aware of. Here are 10 interesting facts about your mouth.
1. Women of childbearing age have heightened taste and smell
Researchers at Yale found that about 35% of women but only 15% of men are “supertasters,” meaning they are more sensitive to flavors such as bitter, sweet, and sour. Supertasters also tend to have a more acute sense of smell, which does make sense considering the role smell plays in taste. Studies have found that women of childbearing age have a more acute sense of taste and smell than women who are younger or older. In these studies, women of reproductive age could, with some training, identify odors at concentrations up to 11 orders of magnitude lower than men who’d started out with similar experience with the smell.
2. Humans have been caring for their teeth for centuries
The way that we care for our teeth may have changed but it’s something we’ve done for a very long time. Did you know the first toothbrushes were actually twigs our ancestors chewed on, using the frayed ends to cleanse their teeth? Around 5,000 B.C., the Egyptians used crushed eggshells and ground animal hooves to clean and polish their teeth. By the 1700s, a British inventor had adapted a toothbrush design first seen in China – a bone handle with boar bristles inserted into small holes and secured with wire. Modern toothbrushes with nylon bristles only came into use in the late 1930s, and the first electric toothbrush was introduced in 1954.
3. There are more bacteria in your mouth than there are people on Earth
If you feel cramped when walking down a city street, imagine how your oral bacteria must feel! Your mouth houses about 20 billion microbes from 500-650 different species. They live on the teeth and tongue but biofilms also cover the cheeks and oral mucosa. These bacteria are an important part of your microbiome (the good bacteria in your body) and they contribute to your overall health.
4. Our ancestors needed their wisdom teeth
Anthropologists believe that wisdom teeth were the evolutionary answer to our ancestor’s early diet of coarse, rough food – like leaves, roots, nuts, and meats – which required more chewing power and resulted in excessive wear of the teeth. Thanks to our modern diet of softer foods, along with overlooked wonders of food technology like forks, spoons, and knives, has made the need for wisdom teeth nonexistent. Some people never get wisdom teeth, but for those who do, the number may be anywhere from one to four – and, on very rare occasions, more than four.
5. Your tongue print is as unique as your fingerprint
This mouth fact is a bit of a weird one. Everyone has a unique tongue print, and while it’s unlikely that your local police station will start taking tongue prints, research on a 3-D imaging machine is being developed and tested. I think it’s safe to say that people typically don’t go around leaving tongue prints so it’s unlikely this will become an identifying factor, but who knows?! Similarly, no two people have the same set of teeth.
6. Your teeth are bigger than they appear
What you see when you look in the mirror can be deceptive. Only 2/3 of a tooth is visible and another 1/3 is hidden below the gumline. If you’ve ever had a tooth pulled and looked at it after, you know how much bigger it is than it appears inside your mouth.
7. Enamel is tough stuff
The enamel on your teeth is the hardest stuff in your body. Enamel can be found on the outside of the crown and it protects your teeth from damage and wear. There are 3 other parts of the tooth – the dentin, which makes up most of the tooth, the pulp, which has blood vessels and nerves, and the root, which hold the tooth in place.
8. We produce 2 pools of saliva in our lives
We produce about 37,854 liters of saliva during our lives, which is enough to fill two swimming pools. That may sound disgusting but it’s actually a very good thing for your oral health and for your taste buds. You need saliva in order to taste because your saliva is what breaks down your food into the compounds which your taste bud receptors can detect. Without saliva, your food would have no taste at all.
9. The uvula’s primary function is speech
The purpose of the uvula has been debated, but most scientists agree that it’s there to help with speech, which makes sense because it’s a body part which is completely unique to humans. The uvula can secrete massive amounts of saliva quickly. This provides the necessary lubrication to make complicated sounds that compose human speech.
10. Your teeth are alive
Teeth are like your bones and are alive, which means they can die. Teeth have their own blood supply and nerves. Since your teeth are alive, they have the ability to heal themselves, just like any other tissue in your body. Your saliva contains enzymes that help teeth heal but it is inhibited by sugar and bad bacteria.