It's considered the height of bad form to stare at someone's hair (rather than their eyes) while they're talking, but you might want to pick up this little habit if you want to be able to figure out if their teeth are squeaky clean. You may be wondering what on earth your aunt's split ends have to do with her early-onset denture use, but it turns out that the two circumstances might actually be linked. If you're wondering how, and how this information can work for you, then here's what you need to know.
Keratin vs Enamel: A Molecular Grudge Match?
On the surface, teeth and hair seem completely different. Your hair is made largely of keratin filaments, which are cross-linked. Enamel, on the other hand, is made up of something completely opposite -- enamel proteins that are replaced by minerals over time after wear and tear degrades the proteins.
When you probe beneath the surface, however, you'll find that enamel that's been fully mineralized has a small amount of organic material that appears to be -- you guessed it -- cross-linked. While your teeth don't exactly grow hair, they do have a lot more in common than might meet the eye, on a molecular level.
Bad Hair, Bad Teeth?
Researches took this similarity one step further, however, and found out something interesting: in the mice being tested that had different polymorphisms linked to hair disorders, they also found a predisposed susceptibility to dental caries (another name for a decayed tooth -- colloquially known as a "cavity").
In other words, mice whose hair was in some way damaged or unhealthy tended to have problems associated with tooth decay, including odd or under-average enamel structure and hardness.
So What Does All This Mean?
For the average human, this will mean little to nothing. However, if you're one of the unlucky percentage that seem to be continually in and out of the shampoo aisle, looking for a solution to the dryness and brittleness of the hair on your head, you may want to take a second look at your pearly whites.
Scientists are finding more and more evidence to suggest that one of the largest predictors of dental health can be found not in your toothpaste but in your genes instead. If you don't know the millions of genes that make your DNA up by heart, you might only need to look at the top of your head for a cheat sheet.
For more information, contact Tisdelle Michael J DDS or a similar dental professional.