Week of December 11, 2022

Facts That Really Have Teeth


The term “to cut your teeth on ___” derives from the old description of when a baby first “cut his teeth,” or had them emerge through the gums.


Horse teeth grow their whole lives, and a trained eye can age the animal accordingly, hence the reference to older folks being “long in the tooth.”


To “lie through your teeth” means to lie unabashedly, often, and by some accounts, even while smiling kindly and showing your teeth.


Not everyone develops wisdom teeth, or “third molars,” but those that do often find they crowd other teeth or become impacted and fail to fully emerge or “erupt” into the jaw. One reason for this is that modern humans have smaller jaws than our distant ancestors, so there is less space for these somewhat vestigial teeth than there used to be.


Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury was famously self-conscious of his prominent front teeth, but refused orthodontic treatment, believing they played a role in his remarkable vocal range and projection. In 2016, European scientists (and admitted fans) studied this question and found that Mercury’s singing voice likely came from not only his outstanding control of his vocal chords, but use of his vestibular folds, membranes found above the vocal chords and not usually used in voice at all.


A snake’s teeth will tell you just how it kills prey. Venomous snakes have long fangs which inject poison into prey, while the more common constrictors have smaller even teeth to latch onto prey while the rest of the muscular snake wraps around it to suffocate it.


Cavities aren’t new, and neither are fillings. Archaeologists have found human remains from about 6,500 years ago with beeswax fillings and remains from 13,000 years ago with tar fillings.