The Mystery of Crooked Teeth in Humans Unveiledwoman with crooked teeth

If you look at your dog or cat, you may notice that their teeth are probably perfectly straight. In fact, it’s not often that we see animals with noticeably crooked teeth. So why is it that nearly every human deals with some sort of orthodontic issue—from crooked teeth and overcrowding to wisdom teeth impaction and TMJ?

In the fossil record, our ancient ancestors almost never had impacted wisdom teeth, gum disease, or many of the dental or orthodontic issues we have today. So what is it with modern humans that makes our teeth so darn needy and complicated?

Teeth – A Biological Marvel 

The structure of our teeth is a marvel of biological innovation. Our teeth are designed to fit together just right to create a chewing surface for grinding in the middle and back of our mouths, and sharp teeth for tearing in the front. Think of how you eat a smoked turkey leg at the Georgia Renaissance Festival. You bite a chunk off with your front teeth (hopefully with lots of dramatic flair like you’re playing Henry VIII in a movie), then you grind it up by chewing on the back teeth. Humans are omnivores, so our teeth evolved to have both functions.

The problem is, our diets changed faster than our teeth 

Over the millions of years that humans evolved, our diets remained relatively the same: lots of plant matter, which takes quite a bit of chewing and grinding before swallowing, and some meat and fish. Our mouths, in turn, evolved to process those types of foods so that our stomachs could absorb the critical nutrients from them. As long as our diets stayed consistent, our teeth were great at doing their jobs.

Then, our diets changed. No longer were we chewing tough, fibrous plant matter all the time. With the advent of agriculture, our wide-ranging diets became more and more limited to what we could grow in our areas. Then we cooked it until it was soft and easy to eat. That was all great for feeding a population but bad for our oral health.

Crooked teeth 

Today, nine in 10 people have teeth that are somewhat misaligned, and 3/4 of humans don’t have enough space in their mouths for their wisdom teeth to emerge properly. This was not the case with our ancient ancestors.

Again, diet seems to be the culprit. The theory is that, back in our prehistoric days, chewing all that tough food put stress on human jaws that caused the jaw bone to grow bigger and stronger. This phenomenon is similar to the effect that weight-bearing exercises have on building stronger bones—the bones grow stronger in response to more stress.

Our modern diets, with their soft, cooked foods, do not put as much stress on our jaws as ancient diets, so our jawbones don’t grow as large. When our jaws aren’t as big, our teeth just don’t fit anymore.

A modern solution to a centuries-long problem

Even though our modern diets make us more prone to crooked, crowded teeth and other orthodontic issues, you don’t have to live with them. Atlanta Orthodontic Specialists can help. Learn more about our services or contact us today to schedule an appointment. 

Get your dream smile with Invisalign at Atlanta Orthodontics!