The guest on this episode answers the question: Why do we tend to have so many issues with our teeth and jaws? How many of us have had teeth pulled, such as our wisdom teeth, and have had braces that align our crooked teeth? If we look around at other mammals, we don't see these issues at all. We can even look to our closest relatives the chimp and the bonobo, and we see that there are very few issues that arise in the development of their teeth and jaws.
To figure this out, I spoke with Peter Ungar, paleoanthropologist, evolutionary biologist, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Environmental Dynamics Program at the University of Arkansas. Peter has spent years studying the Hadza of Tanzania, the last traditional small band hunter gatherer tribe in Africa. He has spent most of his career studying the remains and diets of our prehistoric ancestors. It turns out our diets play a major role in how our jaws develop, and as a result, how our teeth grow in. There are evolutionary reasons why our jaws develop the way they do.
As someone who has undergone multiple teeth removal operations and has had braces for over two years of my life, I was curious as to how our hunter-gatherer brothers and sisters suffer from so few issues with their teeth and jaws. We get into this, as well how diet plays apart in all this.
- Peter Ungar is the author of "Evolution's Bite: A Story of Teeth, Diet, and Human Origins", in which he goes into greater depth regarding the ideas expressed in this episode. More information can be found here: press.princeton.edu/titles/10943.html
- Check out Peter's interview in The Atlantic: theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/04/history-of-teeth/524142
- You can find our more about Peter Ungar's work here: ungarlab.uark.edu/
- Follow Peter on Twitter @petersungar
- The intro drum track was produced by my great and talented friend Nick Archibald.