Before a lot of expensive orthodontic work, my mouth was an accordion of crowded teeth in the front and impacted teeth in the back. I remember being a kid thinking about having my wisdom teeth extracted and thinking how unnatural it seemed. Honestly, it’s not a topic I spent too much time thinking about after I had all my work done. In fact the entire dental marketplace of corrections, straightening, flossing, brushing, invisaligning, fluoridating— really the whole category— is something I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid.
That’s why Peter Ungar’s book, really caught my attention. He’s a professor at the University of Arkansas and he studies the environmental dynamics and anthropological view of teeth over vast stretches of time. The book is, Evolution’s Bite: The True Story of Teeth, Diet and Human Origins. It digs into what our ancestors ate, and what their their fossil remains can tell us about their diet and evolution. Not to mention what teeth are like for modern hunter-gatherers compared to ours. Why are they so straight? Why don’t they have the same wisdom teeth problems that we do?
In fact when you look inside the mouths of modern hunter-gatherers and compare it to the inside of our mouths, ours teeth look like pillows compared to a very different landscape inside of theirs. It could just mean that the assumptions about our teeth, their purpose, the way they’re supposed to mature over time is very different then the way we think of them in industrialized society.