(480) 899-52402470 West Ray Road Suite 1, Chandler, AZ 85224

Daniel G. Kline DDS - Chandler Dentist

(480) 899-5240

2470 West Ray Road Suite 1, Chandler, AZ 85224

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What Happens to Our Teeth When We Die?

Posted by Editor in on May 22, 2017


It might be a bit of a morbid question, but it has a fascinating answer. If you’ve ever seen a skeleton, you may have noticed that their teeth are in incredibly good shape (even when the rest of the remains leaves a lot to be desired). Even more perplexing is why dental decay doesn’t seem to impact the dead—but that’s because tooth bacteria that leads to dental decay needs a live body to thrive. When a person dies, so does the tooth bacteria. Death leads to an instant stop in dental decay, but that’s quite a hefty price to pay!

Arguably, a person’s teeth are the most durable part of the body after death. Even with ancient skeletons, many of the remains still have teeth intact. However, ancient skeletons are also often well preserved due to very dry or wet environments. Still, remains that are several thousands years old and still sporting a solid smile is a sight to behold.

There’s Gold in Them There Teeth!

You may have heard stories of bodies being illegally exhumed in the western era to reclaim gold from teeth. Shockingly, that’s still happening today. In 2012, a Denver embalmer was charged with stealing gold from the bodies he was charged with, then turning around and selling the pieces at pawn shops. Adrian Kline (no relation—really!) was also charged with lying to pawnbrokers. According to a Colorado pawnbroker, a single gold crown can go for $700 depending on quality.

However, gold is rarely used as a filling anymore. Instead, amalgam is one of the most popular options along with a variety of other tooth-colored choices. Still, it’s clear that if you do have gold fillings, you might want to take extra precaution when drafting your will. Gold can last just as long as teeth in the deceased, but it’s a much more valuable item (especially for those in the know).