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Agrarian living has been bad for our teeth!

Publication Date: 05 February, 2015


A recent publication from UCD Earth Institute Fellow Prof Ron Pinhasi, has identified the rise in farming as a factor in contemporary dentistry problems! Published in the journal PLOS ONE on 4th February, the research team’s findings focus on differences in the size and shape of the jawbones of nomadic hunter-gatherers and those of early farmers.

Wheat field


The hunter-gatherer communities survived on a diet largely comprised of uncooked meat, fruits and vegetables and therefore their jaws needed to be strong enough and large enough to cope with these foods.  In contrast, the rise in farming led to more ‘processing’ of foods through cooking and so a heavy jawbone for chewing these softer foods become less essential. Over time, jawbone size decreased in response to these changes. However, this has meant that our jaws are now too small to cope with the number of teeth we have, leading to over-crowding, misalignment and an increased need for orthodontic treatment!

Human jawbone

The study was carried out by Ron Pinhasi of UCD Earth Institute and UCD School of Archaeology, together with colleagues at the Israel Antiquity Authority and the University at Buffalo, NY. For more see http://www.irishtimes.com/news/science/development-of-farming-lead-to-crooked-teeth-1.2091477 and http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0117301