When it comes to visiting the dentist, most of us do it for health reasons. Not only can tooth decay lead to sensitivity and pain, but poor oral health can lead to a host of other problems, too. High levels of bacteria in the mouth can increase your risk of pneumonia. Certain kinds of oral bacteria are tied to frequent migraines. Gum disease has even been linked to breast cancer and kidney disease.
But there’s no denying that some dentistry is just for looks. Cosmetic dentistry focuses on straightening, whitening, and generally beautifying the smile. Because it isn’t exactly seen as healthcare, cosmetic dentistry is often written off as frivolous or unnecessary. That perception can lead to cosmetic dentistry procedures becoming a dental care afterthought for many people.
Attractive Smiles Have Always Mattered
Think an attractive smile is frivolous? Better go back and tell that to the dinosaurs. Recent research has revealed that teeth haven’t always played the role we thought they did.
Humans and other, mammals have three visually distinct types of teeth: Incisors, molars, and canines. Historically, when a mammal displays distinct, long canines, scientists have assumed those canines were intended for use as weapons, for either hunting or defense. But paleontologists at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France have a different hypothesis.
There have always been outliers that didn’t suit this theory. For example, dicynodonts were herbivorous, but had two long tusks. If these weren’t weapons, what were they for? The researchers used CT and synchrotron radiation scanning to examine a fossil skull to try and solve this problem.
This skull belonged to a mammal-like creature called a Choerosaurus, which lived about 300 million years ago. Choerosaurus had two symmetrical protrusions on its head, like tusks. But when those protrusions were compared with similar ones on another species known to fight by headbutting, it became clear that Choerosaurus’ versions couldn’t have stood up to combat. In fact, the number of nerves and blood vessels indicated that they were far better suited for display behavior, like showing bright colors.
The researchers could only reach one conclusion — these protrusions evolved for sexual competition. Like a peacock’s vibrant tail or a bowerbird’s elaborate construction project, the Choerosaurus’ head protrusions probably evolved to serve only one purpose: attracting a mate. And it’s likely that canine teeth originally served this same purpose, since the evolution of the two structures goes hand in hand.
A Historic Precedent for Cosmetic Dentistry
As far back as the Paleozoic era, teeth have been about more than just their function. Display has always been a vital purpose for teeth, and that doesn’t stop today — which is where cosmetic dentistry comes in. Brightly colored tusks might not attract the right kind of attention these days, but your smile can still have a big impact on your love life!
Whether your teeth are yellowed, chipped, or crooked, cosmetic dentistry can give you a smile to be proud of. Dr. Kenneth Siegel is a master aesthetic dentist with 25 years of experience crafting beautiful smiles. Call us at (610) 272-0828 or request an appointment online for your free cosmetic dentistry consultation.