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Scientific study links agriculture to crowded teeth, but then drops the "soft" ball.

by (19479)
Updated about 15 hours ago
Created November 22, 2011 at 2:13 AM

I got super excited today when I searched Google News today and saw this...

"Blame Your Crooked Teeth on Early Farmers" (Wired.com), "For Perfect Teeth, Start Hunting and Gathering" (History.com), and "Wisdom teeth hurt? Blame your ancient ancestors" (MSNBC.MSN.com).

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?

6714718e2245e5190017d643a7614157
10044 · May 06, 2013 at 2:34 AM

+1 I almost had my wisdom teeth removed. My dentist kept bugging me a couple of years ago to have them removed. I still have them. They don't bother me at all so I plan on keeping them. Since giving up grains I have very little calculus or tartar build up.

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12847 · November 22, 2011 at 8:42 PM

my younger brother was lucky though thanks to my experience.

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56616 · November 22, 2011 at 8:42 PM

Pretty funny when you think about traditional Pacific foods, which are pretty mushy. Kids growing up on poi or Karat banana should have really crowded teeth, but Price found that trad living Pacific people had good teeth.

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12847 · November 22, 2011 at 8:42 PM

I hear on the wisdom teeth, they got me too :(

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17394 · November 22, 2011 at 1:18 PM

Yeah, anything to avoid reaching the obvious conclusion at the end of the chain, because it might just piss off the wheat and corn industries.

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78422 · November 22, 2011 at 4:45 AM

It makes you question almost any science story in any media venue. Of course that knowledge become explicet the day we accepted the notion of Paleo Nutrition.

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4 Answers

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89
5
3443 · November 22, 2011 at 10:21 AM

I hadn't been to the dentist in over 10 years and while my check-up went pretty well--and subsequent cleaning the following week in which the hygenist stated "you do a pretty good job, you can probably wait another year before your next cleaning" I hadn't told her how long it had been-- the dentist scheduled me for wisdom teeth removal. None the wiser, I went along although the fact that another tooth had burst out the side of my gums at the age of 27, much to my surprise, may have had something to do with it.

The supernumerary tooth was actually why I made the appointment initially. Anyhow long story short the guy who pulled my wisdom teeth and the supernumerary complimented me on my "stoicness"--stereotype much?--told me he'd 'retire if he had to pull teeth like that every day' as I had 'large roots with hooks on the end' then added that 'your jaw is big enough you probably didn't need to have your wisdom teeth pulled'- but would happy I did.

I'm not. Now food gets stuck between my rear molars after every meal and irritates my gums. But in reference to your question I know that my lack of crowded teeth has to be due to my ancestors relatively recent exposure to modern food/diet. My grandparents still ate mostly wild game and salmon and my mother did until adolescence.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c
12847 · November 22, 2011 at 8:42 PM

I hear on the wisdom teeth, they got me too :(

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c
12847 · November 22, 2011 at 8:42 PM

my younger brother was lucky though thanks to my experience.

6714718e2245e5190017d643a7614157
10044 · May 06, 2013 at 2:34 AM

+1 I almost had my wisdom teeth removed. My dentist kept bugging me a couple of years ago to have them removed. I still have them. They don't bother me at all so I plan on keeping them. Since giving up grains I have very little calculus or tartar build up.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52
1
18635 · November 22, 2011 at 8:01 PM

Thats a good question. I recall in high school a dentist talking to me about having my wisdom teeth removed before they came in. Never had it done. I'm now one of the very few people I know with all my teeth. Never any jaw pain, ear or headaches. Never braces either. Last time to the dentist they just remarked, wow you sure do have a mouth full of teeth. Glad I never gave em a chance to take something out just cause it was the standard.

B14b9655b076706f0de44c45e1f59f6f
-1
-2 · December 11, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Many people each year die from eating peanut brittle. You might say how. Let me tell you how. One time their was an old man who ate some peanut brittle. While eating peanut brittle his tooth accidentally broke. He than went into severe shock causing him to choke. While Choking on a peanut he then somehow managed to have his tooth that broke off end up into his lung. With the tooth in his lung while having severe abdominal cramps. His coughing caused his tooth inside his lung to scrape the lining of his lung then to puncture it. With a punctured lung he lived for about five minutes. The whole result of this death was caused by eating a piece of peanut brittle. So remember be careful while eating peanut brittle!!!

2ca495aeba5cb9286bda0c4b14626aa0
-1
-2 · November 28, 2011 at 7:09 PM

chad is the reason for bad teeth

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