Koalas may look cute, but they live a hard life. Not only are they riddled with disease and stereotyped as lazy – mostly due to their nutrient-starved diet – koalas typically don’t even die of old age; they usually die of starvation.
Koalas are one of the few animals that survive solely on a diet of eucalyptus leaves. Humans use eucalyptus to treat coughs, colds and congestion, but eating it raw, as koalas do, poses more health risks than benefits. It’s actually poisonous and has very few nutrients, which might be why koalas sleep 22 hours every day.
But what does this have to do with teeth? As it turns out, quite a lot.
Koala Teeth: Adapted, But Not Perfectly So
Koalas have sharp teeth, which are adapted to chew and shear eucalyptus leaves. Now, imagine if your diet consisted entirely of leaves. You would be constantly chewing, grinding and clenching your teeth to chew through the tough, fibrous material. As you probably know already, that constant wear and tear on your teeth is harmful. Eventually, your teeth might grind down and break, leaving once-sharp teeth flat with exposed nerves. Ouch.
While the teeth may be adapted to chewing the leaf, they haven’t adapted to exclusively chewing the leaf. That means that, just like your own teeth, koalas wear down and damage their teeth over time. Eventually, koalas’ teeth are so damaged that they can no longer chew the eucalyptus leaf they’ve eaten their whole lives. Tragically, many koalas lose their ability to chew, and starve to death.
Learning From the Koala
While humans don’t spend 22 hours sleeping and the other two eating (though some of us wish we could), there are plenty of lessons we can learn from koalas’ diets and teeth.
We can observe, however, the effect of a vegetarian diet in humans. While vegetarians are often observed to have better overall health than meat eaters, a 2013 study in Nature found that vegetarians’ teeth were more eroded and had a greater amount of tooth decay than meat eaters. Knowing what we now know about koala teeth, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Even vegetarians, however, can switch up their diets. Eating more nuts and other foods that don’t need so much chewing can reduce pressure on our teeth. The more chewing and grinding we do, the more we wear them down.
We also know that the more we grind and clench our teeth, the more likely we are to experience headaches and tooth sensitivity. Here at Contemporary Dentistry, we may not treat koala teeth, but we can help you restore your damaged and ground down teeth. Dental crowns can restore decayed, eroded and chipped teeth, adding a cap-like structure to the tips of affected teeth. If your teeth are damaged beyond repair, removing the affected teeth and replacing them with beautiful and natural-looking dental implants may be a better choice.
We Can Help You Restore Worn Teeth
While the koala diet – and fate – is extreme, you don’t have to live with worn and damaged teeth like koalas do. If you’re concerned about the state of your teeth and want to call in the experts, your trusted holistic dentists can help.