Farming may be responsible for teeth crowding

By - Bad Breath Expert

SUMMARY: Farming may be the reason humans suffer from teeth crowding.

Posted: February 9, 2015

According to a new study published in PLOS One that was conducted by researchers at University College Dublin and other institutions, dental crowding first became a common issue about 12,000 years ago in humans due to the transition from hunting and gathering to farming. Scientists analyzed the jaws of nearly 300 skeletons dating between 6,000 and 28,000 years old. In hunter-gatherers, the researchers found that teeth and jawbones were harmoniously aligned, whereas the alignment wasn't found in groups of semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers and farmers.

Study details
Until these findings, many experts believed that malocclusion was a result of urbanization. The jaw samples examined by the team came from 21 different archeological populations, according to the paper. notes that malocclusion affects approximately one in five people across the globe, making it a prevalent dental problem. Researchers speculate that this common problem is a result of different diets between hunter-gatherers and sedentary groups that relied on agriculture. 

Hunter-gatherers traditionally relied on harder foods such as wild game and hearty plants, whereas farmers consumed a diet of cooked grains and other softer foods. Over time, the diet of farmers causes the jaw to shrink, because the foods consumed don't require the same vigorous chewing process. However, when the jaw shrinks, the dimensions of the teeth remain the same. This in turn causes malocclusion, because the teeth do not have sufficient room in the mouth.

When speaking with, Dr. Ron Pinhasi, lead author on the study explained:

"Our analysis shows that the lower jaws of the world's earliest farmers in the Levant, are not simply smaller versions of those of the predecessor hunter-gatherers, but that the lower jaw underwent a complex series of shape changes commensurate with the transition to agriculture.

"Our findings show that the hunter gatherer populations have an almost 'perfect harmony' between their lower jaws and teeth. But this harmony begins to fade when you examine the lower jaws and teeth of the earliest farmers."

Research conducted by scientists at the University of Cambridge revealed last year that modern-day humans have weaker bones than our hunter-gatherer ancestors. In general, the findings revealed that hunter-gatherers had heavier skeletons that were approximately 20 percent stronger. This research highlights the dental evolution of our species in relation to processed foods, and provides insight about widespread malocclusion and dental crowding. 

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