Teeth are essential for everyday life, as they help you chew your food down to tiny, digestible bits. This makes it easy for the rest of the organs in your digestive system to break the food down further and absorb the nutrients they bring. Mammals, like humans, developed their teeth for millions of years of evolution. Lions have fangs that they use to lock down on their prey. Cows have flat teeth to help them grind grass and other plants efficiently.
You’d expect the humans of today to have perfect chompers designed to break down any vegetable or meat in their diet, like other animals. However, it’s like the supposedly most dominant species on Earth never got the memo.
The fault in our teeth
You probably have at least one of these three problems: cavities, crooked teeth, or impacted wisdom teeth. And if you don’t (congratulations, if ever), you probably know a lot of people who have them. Over 90 percent of adults have at least one cavity, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the latest report from the American Association of Orthodontists, there are an estimated four million Americans wearing braces. The number of people wearing braces also doubled from 1982 to 2008. There’s a wide demand for these dental training wheels, and it’s all because a large chunk of the population has crooked teeth.
Some people have their teeth fixed with braces mostly because of aesthetic reasons. But fixing misaligned teeth isn’t just for cosmetic appearance because it can lead to a variety of health issues, like:
- Difficult digestion — Crooked teeth can make it harder for a person to chew properly. This makes it harder for digestive organs to break down the food it receives.
- >Gum disease and cavities — It can be hard to clean crooked teeth. Some teeth may overlap with each other, creating tight spaces where bacteria can grow rapidly, leading to tooth decay and gum infections.
Another tooth problem that humans can’t avoid is wisdom teeth They usually grow at the very back of your teeth between the ages of 17 to 21. Some grow them with no problem, others don’t have them at all.
However, there are also people whose wisdom teeth don’t fit properly or grow in the wrong position. When this happens their wisdom teeth can get stuck inside the gums or jaw. This is called impacted wisdom teeth and it can cause immense pain, bleeding and swollen gums, and even infections. Over 10 million wisdom teeth are surgically removed every year because of this problem.
Dental issues are a drag to deal with, especially when they’re not even your fault. So why are human teeth so problematic?
A story of evolution, genes and diet
Experts theorize that the reason people have crooked teeth and impacted wisdom teeth is because a lot of people have smaller jaws than they should have. This causes teeth to overlap with each other or slant just to fit inside your mouth. Make no mistake, human jaws have evolved to complement the size of teeth. However, your diet ever since you were a child may have stunted its growth throughout your life.
Dental anthropologists found that Hazda foragers in Tanzania had 20 back teeth, compared to your 16, all perfectly-aligned and with flawless arches. They found that the foragers had longer than usual jaws as well. The researchers theorized that it’s because of their diet of eating rawer and tougher food. Their jaws were able to grow and develop further through the exercise of eating hardy food.
The modern diet consists of soft and mushy processed meat and vegetables, which are cooked, so they’re easier to chew. Your jaw didn’t get the work out it needed back then to fill out. Now, your teeth are struggling to fit together properly.
Speaking of diets, tribal people not only have better-looking but also healthier teeth with little to no cavities. This is because the food they hunt and gather are filled with nutrients and not much sugar. Today’s food and beverages are packed with natural and processed sugars, giving bacteria more food to feast on. And when germs consume sugar, they excrete acids that decay the teeth gradually. As such, there’s a need for you to brush your teeth every day just to cleanse them of sugar and germs.
Today’s teeth are problematic because modern diets are problematic. The best you can do right now is to decrease your sugar intake and practice good oral health habits. Sadly, it’s way too late to develop your jaw further, as your permanent teeth have already grown. So, if you’re expecting or planning to raise a kid, let them eat fully-cleaned raw vegetables, fruits and nuts as they develop their chompers. This way, they’ll have the best chance of developing a brighter and healthier smile throughout their life.