Your Tooth Enamel… Came From Fish Scales?

Tooth enamel is one of the hardest materials in your whole body. It protects your teeth as you eat, and it protects your teeth from sugar and other foods that try to eat away at your teeth, causing cavities and other tooth troubles.

Tooth enamel isn’t found anywhere else in your body, and scientists have long wondered why. A paper that was published recently suggests that fish scales play an important role. That, and maybe a million years.

Scientists who study fish found that there is a shiny material in armor-like fish scales (called ganoine, for those who are curious) that is related to the enamel that is found on human teeth. They found that the proteins in the skin of fish today are identical to the proteins that help tooth enamel develop in human teeth. The armored fish of today – such as the spotted gar – have this material in its scales and on its teeth.

Researchers also looked at fossil records. They discovered that fish that lived about 400 million years ago had the same material in their scales but not on their teeth. This suggests that sometime between then and now fish adapted so that this strong material that protected their scales also came to protect their teeth.

So, what does this mean, and how does it affect you and your teeth?

In short: it’s interesting but it doesn’t change the day-to-day flossing and brushing we all need to keep our tooth enamel strong and our mouths healthy. Regardless of whether we evolved from fish or not, we all need to visit the dentist regularly to ensure our mouths, teeth and gums are healthy and happy.

Just let this little nugget of curiosity put a swish in your tail, er, spring in your step as you go about your day.