When you think about cavemen you probably think about clubs, caves, and running away from dinosaurs. So having time for dental hygiene would not have been a top priority. However, research shows that ancient humans had much better teeth than today. Crooked and ill-aligned teeth are a completely modern phenomenon.
In 1998, a survey showed that over a fifth of the US population suffered from malocclusion. This is the dental term for having a bad bite, basically, teeth that are crowded in a mouth and don’t fit properly. Nearly everyone has at some point needed an intervention from a dentist be it for braces or tooth extraction. And in the Western world having braces as a child has become so common, it’s just seen as a rite of age.
So you would have thought our ancestors probably had it even worse, after all, they didn’t have toothpaste and toothbrushes. But fossil records show a different tale completely, meaning the plague of crooked teeth developed in humans over time. The jaws of humans from the hunter-gatherer age are all extremely roomy. And they show a perfect row of teeth, such as we see in movie stars, where wisdom teeth growth has not caused any problems.
The problem is as you may have guessed our jaws. A key problem with crooked teeth is simply lack of room for the teeth, the jaw is too small. It’s due to the changes in our diet that have changed how we chew. As our ancestors started to use more tools for cooking and eating, moving towards a more agriculture-based life, the need for large jaws lowered.
Anthropologists have long reported the size of the human mouth is getting smaller, shrinking. And that’s because instead of using our mouths to break things apart, humans have been using stone-based tools for over 3 million years. Cutting meat into smaller pieces means less chewing, which means jaws are no longer as powerful. Many scientists believe our modern habits notably around lack of sleep are being detrimental to our health. Fear not though as the same scientist believes with proper attention to our health and diet, our jaws can easily return to size for perfect teeth.