Teeth and bones might look similar at first glance. They are both white, very hard, and loaded with calcium. So, are teeth considered bones?
A closer inspection of the two soon reveals that there are in fact very different from one another. Although teeth are counted as part of the skeletal system, and have many similarities to bones, they also possess many properties which set them apart from bones and make them different.
In answer to the question “are teeth bones?”, let’s look at what makes them similar, and at which important differences set them apart:
- Teeth are made up of calcium, phosphorus and a combination of other minerals. Bones also contain calcium and phosphorus in addition to sodium and other minerals. However, bones are mostly made up of a protein called collagen. Collagen is what gives bones their flexible nature which allows them to withstand pressure. Calcium makes the bones strong enough to support the weight of the human body. Although bones have great strength, they are still nowhere near as strong as teeth. The inside part of a tooth is made up of dentine, which is covered in a layer of enamel. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, and its incredible strength is required to withstand the pressures of a lifetime of biting and chewing.
- Bones provide an important storage place for minerals including calcium, phosphorus and sodium. Teeth are not used by the body in the same way.
- Bones contain bone marrow, a tissue which produces both red and white blood cells. Red blood cells constitute the main part of blood, while white blood cells are a crucial part of our immune system. Teeth do not provide crucial bodily tasks in the same way as they contain dental pulp rather than bone marrow, a tissue which is not necessary for survival.
- Bones are able to regenerate. The periosteum surrounding a bone contains osteoblasts, cells which can produce new bone tissue necessary for growth and repair. In this way a broken bone can be repaired by the body. A broken tooth, however, would require dental treatment and would never grow back like a bone (that’s why using a non-abrasive toothpaste could be a good idea).
- A large part of each tooth is visible outside of the gum. Bones, however, are kept safely inside the body.
- During the course of their life a person has two sets of teeth, the milk (deciduous) teeth in childhood and the permanent teeth in adulthood.
- The body can survive without teeth. Many people have lost all of their teeth, making them edentulous, but can still be in good health and lead a normal life once fitted with full dentures. The same could not be said for someone who had no bones.