We Are How We Eat

Nov 23 2012 @ 6:42pm

In researching Consider the Fork, Bee Wilson learned that "the alignment of our jaws and teeth may be a product of how we use cutlery in our formative years":

A remarkable American anthropologist called C. Loring Brace noticed that the overbite — which orthodontists tell us is the normal arrangement for our teeth — only goes back around 250 years. Before that, surviving skeletons show an edge-to-edge bite, similar to apes. The best explanation for this change in our teeth is the adoption of the knife and fork, which meant that we started to cut food up into small morsels before eating it. Previously, in the West, we ate food using the "stuff-and-cut" method, clamping chewy bread or meat between our incisors. When we stopped using our incisors as a clamp — because of the knife and fork – the top layer of teeth continued to grow (or "erupt"), resulting in the overbite.

The clincher — I had goosebumps when I first read this — is that this change in human teeth can be observed 900 years earlier in China than the West. The reason? Chopsticks.