The Loh Down On Science

Farmer Teeth

Grow your own vegetables, raise your own chickens ... get bad teeth?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Saying, you can bet the farm on it!

Meet Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel, from Britain's University of Kent. She measured the jawbones of three hundred one- to two-thousand-year-old museum specimens. Half were of nomadic hunter-gatherers; the others, farmers.

The jaws of hunter-gatherers--no matter what part of the world or population they were from--were longer; the arch of each mandible, more pointy, like the letter V.

Farmers? Had shorter, more U-shaped chompers ... as in most modern populations.

As we transformed from buffalo-slaying nomads into farmers, our jaws essentially shrunk and rounded off. Why? Well, hunters regularly dined on wild, tough meat--and their flesh-tearing hyena-like jaws went out of style as stews and mashed potatoes came in vogue.

This could help explain some dentition problems today. Teeth apparently don't adapt as fast as jawbones. Put original-sized teeth into a modern small jaw and the result? Crowding, twisting... and becoming besties with your orthodontist.

But who's to blame for rainbow-colored braces? Something to chew on.



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