According to a conference in North Carolina, entitled Evolution of Human Teeth and Jaws; Implications for Dentistry and Orthodontics, many of modern man’s dental problems can be blamed on changing diets. Experts in the field have discovered that things like cavities, overbites, and crooked or crowded teeth are inevitable, given the drastic change in eating habits over the past 13,000 years.
The study used ancient fossilised teeth to compare today’s diet with that of our ancestors, explains Simon Hillson, Professor of bio-archaeology at University College London; ‘Not only are there exceptionally well-preserved examples of fossilised human ancestors available, we’ve been able to examine teeth of people such as the Aboriginals and Kalahari bushmen who ate a hunter-gatherer diet like our pre-agricultural ancestors as recently as the 1950’s’
Since man became farmers, rather than hunter-gatherers, food has become much softer and easier to chew, resulting in smaller jaws and teeth that are ‘actually redundant’, says Dr Nigel Carter of the British Dental Health Foundation. Dr Carter added that ‘apart from the necessity of teeth for appearance and speech, we probably no longer need them’, due to diets that reduce chewing. The arrival of sugar in Britain may also have played a big part in dental conditions, says Dr Carter, pointing out that at the start of the 19th century when the sweet stuff arrived on our shores ‘the state of our teeth plummeted.’