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What makes teeth so different from the rest of your body?

What’s so special about teeth?

Perhaps you’ve wondered why it is that your teeth can be so strong and durable, but require so much delicate care and attention at the same time.

Your teeth are strong. They’re so strong that they can grind up even some of the toughest foods into tiny bits. They can tear through something like steak that would be tough to pull apart with your bare hands.

But teeth are incredibly fragile too. If you slice your finger open a knife, the cut can heal in a manner of days or weeks. If you break your arm, a doctor can put a cast on it and predict healing in just a couple of months. But a cavity doesn’t fix itself. Neither does a chipped tooth.

So what, exactly, is the deal?

The deal is that your teeth are the only part of your body that isn’t made of cells. Take a moment to think back to middle-school biology.

Got it? That’s right: Cells are the basic building-blocks of life. Every living thing – from bacteria to insects to human beings – is made up of cells. Your blood is made of cells. Your brain is made of cells. Your skin is made of cells.

But your teeth — at least the outermost layers that do most of the work — are acellular. That means they are not made of cells. Instead, they are made of an incredibly hard mineral called calcium phosphate.

Cells live and grow and divide. If you cut your hand, you either cut the space in between some rows of cells or you cut directly through the cells themselves. But cells reproduce rapidly and will close the hole you made as they do so.

Your teeth can’t do that. The teeth you have are the teeth you’re stuck with. Since the rest of your body is made of cells, it does a pretty good job taking care of itself. But your teeth need extra attention. The care you give them is the only care they’ll get.