Thursday, April 15, 2010

Open wide......wider.....WIDER!!!

This news item made me realize that no matter how difficult it is to get a good look at the teeth of a small child - it could always be worse! Recently the Loyola University Medical Center donated a CT-scanning machine to the Brookfield Zoo. This enabled the zoo's veterinarians to finally do a thorough evaluation of the teeth of an aardvark.

Just to refresh your memory, this is an aardvark:

Apparently tooth decay is an issue with elderly aardvarks. In the wild, they typically live around 10 years, which generally isn't long enough for tooth decay to become a major problem. However, in captivity the animals do much better and can live as long as 30 years, during which time tooth decay is typical. Full story from the Chicago Tribune.

The aardvarks unique dentition is also worth noting. From wikipedia:
One of the most distinctive characteristics of the Tubulidentata is (as the name implies) their teeth. Instead of having a pulp cavity, each tooth has a cluster of thin, upright, parallel tubes of vasodentin (a modified form of dentin), with individual pulp canals, held together by cementum. The teeth have no enamel coating and are worn away and regrow continuously. The aardvark is born with conventional incisors and canines at the front of the jaw, which fall out and are not replaced.
They are the only remaining species on earth to exhibit tubulidentata.

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