We know the importance of a clean and healthy mouth to combat decay and disease, but what about the superficial side of the smile?
Nearly one-third of Americans say the first aspect of someone’s face they typically notice is his or her teeth. And 24% say that this is also the facial aspect they remember the most after meeting someone.
However, the ability to change and improve one’s teeth is still a more recent capability in the grand scheme of things. For centuries, the only true option to improve your smile was to fully remove all your teeth and replace them with dentures. To truly appreciate how far we have come with the ability to easily and inexpensively manipulate your teeth to give you the smile that you have always wanted, it’s important to look back the to see where we came from.
Did cavemen need braces?
As you can imagine the cavemen didn’t have much time to worry about teeth alignment as they were busy discovering life-sustaining things like fire. However, according to archeologists, maybe they didn’t physiologically even need to worry about it because cavemen didn’t have alignment problems with their teeth. The jaws of hunter-gatherers nearly uniformly have perfect arches of well-aligned teeth, with no impacted wisdom teeth.
One reason for this is that their jaws jutted out further from the face and were bigger and more powerful than ours are today. These more powerful jaws were necessary for tearing meat. This, in combination with their diet of raw foods and meat, allowed our prehistoric ancestors to have a very healthy set of teeth. In fact, researches have been able to correlate the degradation of the human diet from the clean food cavemen ate to overly processed foods of today directly to the change in our more challenging oral health.
So, what changed?
For one thing, our mouths and jaws have actually been getting smaller over time. For healthy development, jaws must be able to provide sufficient room for all of the thirty-two teeth that grow in the mouth. Over time, our teeth have grown crooked because our jaws have grown smaller.
As the human population transitioned out of the prehistoric era and the hunter and gatherer lifestyle, evolutionary changes began to take place in the mouth. Through the use of cutting tools to pare meat down to more manageable bites, our jaws were not required to do as much work. Therefore, they became smaller over time. The advent of agriculture accelerated this trend as our jaws were required to do even less work. Fast forward to modern times, and much of our food is incredibly soft and requires no vigorous chewing. Over the last several tens of thousands of years, the number of teeth in our mouth hasn’t changed, but the way we use them has. This has led to modern day crowded jaws which result in crooked teeth.
The straight teeth trend
Since it seems unlikely out diet will ever mirror that of the cavemen (even paleo diets don’t require the same chewing as our ancient ancestors), we have to turn to mechanical ways to get all of our teeth to fit properly in our mouth again. Before the advent of braces, extraction, dentures, or the filing down of teeth were used to create the illusion of alignment. It wasn’t until 1900 that the modern orthodontia curriculum was established.
In the past century, the desire for orthodontic treatment has exploded. 80% of teenagers in North America have had some sort of orthodontic treatment. Adults seeking treatment now make up 50% of visits to an orthodontist. It’s no wonder, either, since our culture puts such a high value on straight teeth.
Even within orthodontia, trends are quickly evolving and making straightening your teeth more financially accessible to the masses. With new technologies like Invisalign, you are able to straighten your teeth faster and with less disruption to you daily life.
If you are one of the more than three in five Americans who would rather have a straight smile than clear skin, or part of the 87% who would give up something for a year to have a straight smile for life, then give our office a call today to discuss your options.