Teeth

Terence Wynne asks:

I wanted to ask about Eldraeic teeth.

Okay, so I’ve got to ask… are you a dentist? Or otherwise in the tooth-wrangling professions, whatever others of those there may be?

(I ask because this is a very unexpected question, and I’m a little weirded out here, frankly. Of course, it’s not like I’m not the kind of obsessive worldbuilder who doesn’t have answers to this sort of question, so…)

Presumably “modern” Eldrae have nigh indestructible teeth,

The standard answer is “here, swirl and spit, and that will coat that vulnerable hydroxyapatite with a thin layer of good old diamondoid”, yeah.

but what about  pre-imperial baseline Eldrae?  Did their teeth keep growing throughout their lives to keep up with wear and tear? Did new teeth grow in when old ones wore out and fell out (or were pushed out by the next wave of teeth growing in)?  In the former case, I’d expect something in a millennium or two of living would knock out a tooth or two.  That’s going to add up and encourage the early development of dentures.  In the latter case, Eldrae probably got to end-of-life of a bunch of teeth near the same time.  It would seem incongruous to have an Eldrae of otherwise superhuman beauty and grace open his/her mouth and look like a caricature of an Oakie from the dustbowl for a decade every century or so.  On the other hand, I can conceive of musical forms being developed to take advantage of temporarily toothless players…

The former. Now, the thing here to remember is this isn’t actually an evolved solution. The origin of the species is in a precursor race mucking about with chimerizations and miscellaneous improvements roughly based off Pseudoeldrae archaea, so there was a certain engineering elegance involved when they were designing teeth for a species intended to last essentially forever.

A first difference is that they aren’t particularly designed for replacement. In the baseline, there aren’t primary teeth: the first and only teeth are the permanent ones; and those come with tree-bark layered hard enamels (to make ’em tougher) and complex roots anchored into bone (to make ’em harder to knock out). But most importantly, where in humans the ameloblasts that produce enamel do not die after tooth development, which lets them self-repair.

(They don’t have to keep chewing to wear them down. They’re not like Earth rodent teeth – there’s a regulatory mechanism similar to that for osteoblasts. But it does mean that routine wear, cavities, and even substantial chips could be expected to be repaired – if you took care of yourself, kept them clean, and made sure to drink your calcium and phosphate…)

There’s also a minor preventative effect on cavities: the pH of their saliva has been altered to be somewhat more alkaline, discouraging demineralization.

It’s not impossible, though, to knock one out, or to damage it to the extent that the biological insult is sufficient to cause the root to detach and for that tooth to subsequently fall out. In that case, in the baseline, it doesn’t regenerate – for the precursors, it was easy enough to fix such a minor problem with their medical tech.

This, of course, changed after the fall of precursor civilization, so in those cases they did indeed develop bridge and implant denture technology made from ivory, ceramic, and metal to deal with that particular problem. But it was something that you’d need after a fairly hefty accident to do the damage: people living quiet, civilized lives could expect to keep their teeth from birth to death, even if they had to repair more’n a few chips along the way.

In the nowline, of course, the genehackers have arranged for the underlying tooth bud to reactivate should the tooth that grew from it not be there any more and jolly well spit out another one. (That’s about as much fun as it sounds like, but at least you’re not having to put up with a whole mouthful of it at once.)

I assume even baseline Eldrae teeth are tougher than human equivalents.  Were they tough enough to be of use as/in tools during the stone age?  If so, what would the attitude of a family/tribe be to the use of teeth from the dear departed to help them survive the vicissitudes of life?

They probably would have been, had there been a stone age. (Because of that precursor thing… well, okay. Eliéran prehistory looks, um, odd due to various intervening periods. It looks sort of like this.

  1. Glorious Precursor Civilization; ending as…
  2. The Chaos smashes Glorious Precursor Civilization; leading to…
  3. Fallout, basically, In Space!; in turn leading to…
  4. First, Now-Forgotten, Eldrae Civilization, based on Precursor leftovers and magical thinking; ended by…
  5. Winter of Nightmares, in which an asteroid kills almost everyone; people crawled out of their caves and founded…
  6. Second, Mostly-Legendary Eldrae Civilization; just in time for…
  7. the Gray Wasting, in which a plague left over from the Chaos wipes half the planetary population again; the survivors form…
  8. First Pre-Imperial Civilization (Bronze Age, Greece); disrupted by…
  9. the Drowning of the People; followed by…
  10. Ungoverned Era (transitioning Bronze to Iron); followed by…
  11. Old Empires (Iron Age, Rome); followed by…
  12. Glorious Imperial Era!

The regression probably came closest during the Winter of Nightmares, but never actually got all the way down to stone-age tech globally.

Hypothetically, though, hmm. Not sure. I mean, sure, the dead are dead and no longer need their stuff, but it has historically been considered polite to wait until they are no longer present (i.e., the body has been cremated to send the soul upon its way; in later legal systems, you aren’t even legally dead until you’re dead and burned), and I am not entirely sure of the usefulness of whatever tooth-fragments you can pick out of a smoldering pile of cremains. They build pyres hot.

How many teeth do they have?  Do they have an analog to wisdom teeth?

36: 18 above and below: two incisors, a canine, three premolars, three molars on each side. None of those count as wisdom teeth – doing a simple scale-up of a human or pseudoeldrae archaea jaw to match their slightly larger head-size (i.e., remaining in proportion with greater height, etc.) would probably suggest that they should have 40 teeth, but evidently the precursors dropped what would have been the fourth, rather than the third, molar from the spec on the grounds that wisdom teeth are all too often a pain in the… jaw rather than a functional accessory.

Oh, and as a side note, the canines, particularly the maxillary ones, are a little more… canine than the human equivalent. We’re not talking GIANT POINTY FANGS protruding beyond the lip, here, nor even anything like popular depictions of vampire fangs.

Just that it’s not hard to tell which teeth are the pointy ones, belike. An adaptation of little use but for eating rare steak and smiling intimidatingly.

 

One thought on “Teeth

  1. Not in the teeth-wrangling business at all, nor had I just had a long visit with the dentist. It just seemed natural to ask. Thanks!

    Like

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