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The development of farming and crooked teeth

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Ever wonder what would happen if our dietary changes made our jaws smaller, but our teeth remained the same size. Read about it right here.

We love to have an occasional browse through the Irish Times when we get a minute to ourelves here at MyDental. We were particularly taken by a brilliant article from Dick Ahlstrom on how the emergence of farming actually led directly to crooked teeth.

Intrigued by the title, we read on to hear that farming is only around 12,000 years old and emerged as a way of ensuring that we could produce our own food – without having to kill to feed ourselves.

So how do we know that this new focus on formal agriculture has led to crooked or misaligned teeth? Dick points out that the finding is as a result of detailed studies of 292 archaeological skeletons from individuals who lived between 28,000 and 6,000 years ago.

UCD was involved in the research exercise, as was the Israel Antiquity Authority and the State University of New York. The findings of this interesting and intriguing research were published recently in the journal PLOS ONE (http://www.plosone.org). 

The research discovered that there was a definite difference between the jawbones of nomadic hunter-gatherers and later generations of farmers in the Levant.

Dick further explains that the hunter-gatherers had a “perfect harmony” between the size of their teeth and the length and shape of their jaws. “Everything fit and the teeth were in good alignment.”

The early farmers showed a distinct difference in their dental structure, however. The researchers have put forward the theory that changes in their diet brought about resulting changes in the size and shape of their jaws.

And here’s the key point – tooth size remained the same but the jaw got smaller and changed shape, causing overcrowding and misalignment.

The research team attributes this to a changed diet. “The hunter-gatherers had to make do with tough foods such as uncooked veg and meat. The early farmers switched however to softer cooked and processed foods such as grains and beans.”

“The soft cooked and readily available foods from farming meant there was less requirement for chewing which meant a heavy jaw was not necessary. The jaw shrank, the teeth didn’t and this led to the modern requirement for “train-tracks” to bring the teeth into alignment, the scientists believe.”

It’s hard to argue with the research findings as this kind of dental crowding is very commonplace today. The research authors claim that one in five people are affected in modern-world populations.

We see it every day here at MyDental – but never knew that it was as a result of a move to organized agriculture that dated back over twelve thousand years.

Thankfully, modern dentistry is more than capable of fixing the problem. Clear braces are a highly effective way of straightening crooked or misaligned teeth, and our Fastbraces® system works in as little as six months.

Clear braces cost a lot less than you think – and even better, you can spread the cost over three, six or nine months with our 0% Dental Finance Plan.

Something to think about while you ponder the impact of modern agriculture!