Soft Diets May be Bad for Jaws and Oral Health

A new problem has emerged in industrialized nations, according to new research conducted at the University of Kent. According to the research, the jaws of people in industrialized nations are growing shorter and smaller than previous generations but their teeth are staying the same size. This means that our teeth are beginning to be too large to fit our jaws which can cause serious orthodontic problems. And researchers believe that modern diets may be to blame!

The research began as an anthropological study by Dr. Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel, from the University of Kent’s School of Anthropology and Conservation. The research was meant to test an anthropological theory that has been hotly debated, which is that our shift as humans from being a hunter-gatherer society to an agriculturally subsisted one has actually affected the way the human skull and jaw developed over time.

The research was conducted by studying the skull and jaw sizes of eleven different populations worldwide. Dr. von Cramon-Taubadel studied the diets of each of these populations and found an interesting correlation between the size of the jaw and the diet of those populations, and the size of the skull was more related to the genetics of the populations.

As the study set out to test, the research showed that in fact the hunter-gatherer versus agricultural model of subsistence made a huge impact on the average jaw size. This phenomenon occurred globally, regardless of what area of the world the population came from. Dr. von Cramon-Taubadel has shown that it is the chewing behavior associated with these variant diets that determines the size of the jaw, and the skull is not affected by this chewing behavior as the jaw is.

The research showed longer and narrower jaws belonging to societies that still utilized a hunter-gatherer mechanism for subsistence. These led them to have proper spacing for the growth of teeth. Meanwhile agricultural societies experienced a much larger prevalence of overcrowded jaws.

Dr. von Cramon-Taubadel made a statement about her discovery: “Chewing behaviour appears to cause the lower jaw to develop differently in hunter-gatherer versus farming populations, and this holds true at a global level. What is interesting, is that the rest of the skull is not affected in the same way and seems to more closely match our genetic history.”

About the Author
Jessica Harmon is a staff writer for Dr. James A. Wells of South Charlotte Dentistry. If you are concerned about the effects that your diet has on your teeth, please visit our website for more information!


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