How Human Teeth Have Evolved

You can tell a lot about a species from the shape of its teeth. For example, you can see that a dog or cat has two long pointed teeth in the front. These are called canines. In the wild, the shape of canines is optimal for tearing meat. Human teeth are designed to eat both meat and plants. Our canines are smaller than cats’ or dogs’, but they serve the same purpose. The flat teeth located in the back of our mouths, the molars, are optimal for chewing plants.

Throughout human history how we have used our teeth has changed. With the advances in technology, we have been able to place less and less strain on our teeth. Over time we developed methods of cooking that made food softer, built tools that break food into smaller pieces and created processed food so that is easier to eat. As a result, strong jaws and teeth became less and less essential for survival. While the need for strong teeth was diminishing over thousands of years, human teeth and jaws gradually became smaller. This is one of the reasons why there is often not enough room for wisdom teeth to grow in properly. Thankfully, the progress of modern technology has allowed us to safely treat this issue and maintain a higher level of oral hygene than our predecessors.

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