Over many generations humans have evolved and adapted quite considerably, and as our ability to adapt our environment continues, so too does our evolutionary progress.
But is this evolutionary progress likely to result in us no longer requiring teeth?
It’s an interesting question, and perhaps one that makes you feel a little uncomfortable. But the fact is that our teeth were originally designed to chew through large chunks of meat most of the time, and frankly today with our soft foods it is simply no longer necessary to have the sort of teeth our caveman ancestors needed.
Because teeth are so durable they are one of the last things to remain after the rest of the body has returned to dust. For this reason it is possible to examine the teeth from humans who lived and ate and died many thousands of years ago.
By looking at very old human teeth, and by examining how teeth have developed over thousands of years researchers are able to identify the evolutionary progress which has resulted in us having the teeth and jaws we do today.
But the problem is that our diets today does not include many tough foods which require biting and ripping and tearing. To begin with we use a knife and fork for foods which are tough, such as steaks. We politely cut our food into bite-size chunks, which itself is something of a misnomer since the one thing we don’t need to do with a bite sized chunk is bite it. Instead we get to chew small chunks of food, which of course does not require the use of our incisors or canine teeth.
But the majority of our food is not tough or chewy. We have cooked food rather than raw food, and this is inevitably much softer. Because we don’t chew as much, we simply don’t need the sort of teeth our hunter gatherer ancestors had.
Are Our Teeth Now Redundant?
So does this mean that our teeth are largely redundant? Are we fussing over the way our teeth look today simply because of the fact that they look nice?
We could easily argue that teeth could go in the same way as our body hair. Our ancestors used to be coated with a thick mass of body hair, but as we became increasingly mobile, increasingly active, and able to manufacture clothes and clothing, as well as mastering the development of fire, we no longer needed a thick coat of body hair.
Over thousands of years our bodies have reacted to the fact that the body hair is no longer needed, and even the hairiest of people today are virtually bald compared to our ancestors of long ago.
So perhaps we’re on the verge of seeing teeth go the same way?
Of course this is to overlook the fact that our teeth have a very definite benefit beyond simply biting or chewing food, or indeed simply looking pleasant when we smile.
What marks the human species out from any other animal is our ability to communicate verbally using a complex language. This is only possible with teeth, since many of the sounds we use involve the teeth.
So perhaps what we are looking at here is the fact that teeth are now only really required for aesthetics and speech, and perhaps the time of having teeth which are capable of ripping a raw hunks of meat apart are over.
Having said all that however, I don’t think it is likely that the dental industry will collapse anytime soon. In more ways than one I think the human species is still very much attached to its teeth, which is certainly good news for dental professionals and dental recruitment agencies!