Overcrowded teeth and other dental malocclusions such as misaligned teeth are thought to affect at least one in five people worldwide. But recent research indicates that prior to the emergence of agriculture, our ancient ancestors had teeth and jaws that fit nearly perfectly.
Fortunately, there are many cosmetic dentistry and orthodontic treatments available to treat malocclusions, and provide a functional bite and properly aligned smile. If you live in the Austin, Texas, area and would like to learn about your options, please call Dr. Dan Matthews at 512-452-2273 to schedule your personal consultation.
Farming and Malocclusions
Analyzing the lower jaws and teeth of nearly 300 archaeological skeletons between 6,000 and 28,000 years old, an international team of researchers found that hunter-gatherers experienced almost no dental crowding or teeth alignment problems.
The scientists also learned that the lower jaw of humans underwent a complex series of shape changes that coincided with the transition from hunting and gathering to a sedentary farming lifestyle. The almost-perfect harmony between the teeth and the lower jaw began to fade as hunter-gatherers became semi-sedentary and agriculture took root.
According to the research, the findings of which were published in peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS ONE, crowded teeth and dental malocclusions became increasingly common around 12,000 years ago, as agriculture spread and humans adopted less nomadic and more idle lives.
Diet and Dental Changes
The research supports previous studies that indicate our modern malocclusions are linked largely to diet.
Hunter-gatherers subsisted on “hard” foods like raw vegetables and fruits, and uncooked meats. These ancient people required larger, stronger jaws to bite through, tear off, and break down their foods.
With the shift toward agriculture-based societies, diet changed dramatically. Softer foods like legumes and cereals became common, and vegetables and meats were processed and cooked. This lessened our jaws’ biting and chewing requirements, and our jaws progressively diminished in size. Our teeth, however, did not change in size or number, leaving inadequate space in the jaw and leading to the development of crowded teeth and other alignment problems.
If you’re concerned about unevenly spaced or misaligned teeth, please contact Dan Matthews, DDS, online or call our office at 512-452-2273 to learn more about your treatment options. Dr. Matthews welcomes patients from and visitors to the greater Austin, Texas, area.