I got super excited today when I searched Google News today and saw this...
All three articles linked to a study recently published in the scientific journal PNAS (snicker) called "Global human mandibular variation reflects differences in agricultural and hunter-gatherer subsistence strategies" by Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel.
The abstract reads as follows:
"Variation in the masticatory behavior of hunter-gatherer and agricultural populations is hypothesized to be one of the major forces affecting the form of the human mandible. However, this has yet to be analyzed at a global level. Here, the relationship between global mandibular shape variation and subsistence economy is tested, while controlling for the potentially confounding effects of shared population history, geography, and climate. The results demonstrate that the mandible, in contrast to the cranium, significantly reflects subsistence strategy rather than neutral genetic patterns, with hunter-gatherers having consistently longer and narrower mandibles than agriculturalists. These results support notions that a decrease in masticatory stress among agriculturalists causes the mandible to grow and develop differently. This developmental argument also explains why there is often a mismatch between the size of the lower face and the dentition, which, in turn, leads to increased prevalence of dental crowding and malocclusions in modern postindustrial populations. Therefore, these results have important implications for our understanding of human masticatory adaptation."
If you noticed the bit about "masticatory stress", then you get the gist of the authors explanation. Basically, she (and the subsequent "science" journalism) focus entirely on the idea that "soft" foods are what led to our agricultural ancestors (and by extension, us) having bad teeth. She seems to also think that cooking coincided with the advent of agriculture (the use of fire actually predates the Paleolithic, stretching all the way back into middle Pleistocene).
There is not a single bit of exploration into the possible role of nutrition in the development of crowded teeth (Weston A. Price would must be rolling in his grave) and I couldn't believe that none of the coverage of the paper broached the topic as well.
I felt pretty annoyed (so much so that I banged out a quick post, "Do You Have 'Farmer Face'") and wanted to know, is there any way that "hard" foods could actually lead to a larger, roomier jaw? Or, is this in fact BS (which is my feeling) and crowded teeth are more likely due to (possibly multi-generational) nutrient deficiencies?