Why We Have Teeth: An Evolutionary Examination

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Why We Have Teeth: An Evolutionary Examination

  1. Home
  2. Dental Articles
  3. Teeth Whitening Articles
  4. Why We Have Teeth: An Evolutionary Examination
Why We Have Teeth An Evolutionary Examination In Melton Dental House
Teeth are interesting things and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending upon the creature involved. Teeth are, in most mammals, hard tool bits designed for grinding down substances for food. Incisors can, also, tear things into smaller morsels for easier mastication. So, why do we have teeth: an evolutionary examination will take a look at the concept as a whole. I mean, not all creatures have teeth and there is a huge discrepancy in the volume of teeth among different species. Think about the Giant Panda and the demands upon its teeth in masticating fibrous bamboo.

“Several studies have demonstrated that to adapt to changing food habits, the giant panda’s mouth and teeth macrostructures have undergone a variety of changes to increase bite force and masticatory efficiency. However, on a microscopic level, this increased occlusal force also increases enamel wear risk. Multiple studies have investigated the microstructure and mechanical behaviour of giant panda tooth enamel under different conditions. “
– NCBI.gov

Teeth Are Just One Evolutionary Answer To Eating

Insects, for instance, do not have teeth – as we know them. You do not find many grasshoppers or bugs worrying about the whiteness of their smile. No, insect mandibles are the order of the day – these are outer oral appendages designed to chew stuff and break it down prior to ingesting it. Flies are famous for vomiting an acidic substance onto their food to aid their digestion of prey. There is more than one way to skin a cat, it seems. Skinning prey is another means of accessing a food source without having to use your teeth.

Vertebrates, Teeth, Jaws & Evolution

Teeth are unique to vertebrates – those of us with a back bone. Our jaws are ancient and powerful parts of who we are at the most primal of levels. Jaws and teeth are central to the evolutionary development of all vertebrates. This is why you can tangibly sense the psychological connection between teeth and who we are as primates, or indeed vertebrates. This is why when we lose teeth for whatever reason, accident or age, it can adversely impact our sense of wellbeing. The teeth and jaw are linked to our carnivorous identity in a very ancient sense. Biting into life with gusto is a very real manifestation of vigour. Predators require jaws and teeth to function. Grasping and crushing food like the crocodile. The number of teeth and their size and shape are predicated by the environmental demands over evolutionary time.

“Teeth, or tooth-like structures called odontodes or denticles, are present in all vertebrate groups, although they have been lost in some lineages. Most fish and reptiles, and many amphibians, possess dentitions that contain a large number of teeth (polyodont) of similar shape (homodont) that undergo continuous replacement (polyphyodont). These teeth are comprised of dentin and enamel or an enamel-like structure, are rootless, and are attached directly to bone by ankylosis or fibrous tissue. In contrast, mammalian teeth are rooted and are connected to the jaws through interactions between the periodontal ligaments and alveolar sockets.”
– Jheon AH, Seidel K, Biehs B, Klein OD. From molecules to mastication: the development and evolution of teeth. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol. 2013 Mar-Apr;2(2):165-82. doi: 10.1002/wdev.63. Epub 2012 May 3. PMID: 24009032; PMCID: PMC3632217.

Why We Have Teeth An Evolutionary Examination At Melton Dental House
Teeth & Who We Are

Have you ever thought about the disproportionate importance we as human cultures devote to these small hard bits in our mouth? We place an inordinate emphasis on the look of these grinding tool bits in regard to the attractiveness and status among our members of the human race. Teeth have a much bigger role to play than their size would normally predicate. I tip my hat to the major role that our teeth and jaw have had within our evolutionary development as vertebrates. I find that we as modern human beings discount the anatomical and evolutionary forces driving our lives. We like to think that we are not predestined by the chemistry at the root of who we are as a species. This is a hopeful delusion at best.

Processed Foods Making Teeth Eventually Obsolete

Stepping back from the evolutionary science and examining what we are doing with food in the 21C there are new things to consider. Mass manufacturing and ultra-processed foods are rapidly changing the diets of billions of people on planet Earth. The dental industry is in a dynamic dance with the food sector because of the mass prevalence of sugar and carbohydrates in processed foods. Giant food corporations make money out of selling unhealthy foods to the population. Soft drinks, or soda as they call it in America, have been rotting the teeth of many millions of people for decades. Fast foods offer convenience at the cost of poor health outcomes for consumers who eat them far too often. Dentists drill and fill the decaying teeth of those wealthy enough to afford their services. Do teeth have a future in the long term? Or will predigested food substances replace those foods requiring teeth. The bright and incessant advertising of the fast food industry may turn the heads of the herd down the track toward such easier options. A cool tune and a celebrity or two can probably entice the young and impressionable toward soft pap, especially if it is packaged in bright wrappers and prominently features on social media.

Soft Diets & Depression

The growing ranks of depressed human beings can, also, be partly attributed to poor diet. Alongside pointless and poor paying jobs, of course. The demise of manufacturing in the West, has meant more meaninglessness at the heart of career choices. The human microbiome fed on mass produced hamburger meat, sugary buns, oily chips, and the other fast food staples sees the demise of good bacteria and the rise of microbes which thrive on such fare. Science is revealing the link between the rising rates of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancers, and depression from the prevalence of continual poor diet choices fed by a capitalist system intent on making money at the expense of health. There is little to get your teeth into in a Big Mac these days – it’s a squishy affair. More and more young people spend their lives behind screens and consuming fast foods. Too much soft drink, sports drinks, and the like. KFC, RR, Hungry Jacks, and their bright facades lighting up our streets and highways.

Is dentistry moving ever further toward cosmetic concerns? Appearance over substance? Can the industry see the writing on the wall in regard to the evolutionary future of our teeth? Will a perfect smile be just for show? Is life rapidly becoming something not to get your teeth into?

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The content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. Melton Dental House does not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of the content.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional personal diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a dental or medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read or seen on the Site.

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