Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Our choppers ain't what they used to be

I lay stretched out in the dentist’s chair this week, watching that whirring gadget coming closer, and closer, and then helpful memory cooed almost as reassuringly as a kind mother. It reminded me of a session of what passed for dentistry in New Zealand backblocks back in childhood.
The hypodermic needle back then in that hydro-electric village seemed more similar to a six-inch nail than anything waiting for dentist Joe’s attention in the here and now of his practice.
Consolation moved on to the really early days for our species when all their mouths would have known would be half-scorched flesh from wild critters, and questionable gatherings from forest floors.
Toothache must have been an everyday experience, I assumed. Meanwhile, as quickly as it began, the work was done.
Joe being as kind and gentle as ever, I was spared even the slightest twinge.

Good diet - great teeth

A shock awaited me at home - an email with some timely news. To my surprise, it showed how little our hunter-gatherer forebears actually suffered dentally in those very far off days.
The spot of history came from one of’s daily samples from books, and this from a study of diets and teeth from way back then.
Surprise, surprise, I learned that the extraordinary change from diets then to ours today has not been positive - far from it.
‘Much of what we eat today, often in large quantities, isn't exactly what one could call all-natural,’ reports Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans. ‘If you really are what you eat, then we are already quite a different species.

Oh, no - not for the Neanderthals

'Bodies that for hundreds of thousands of years ate all-natural have been challenged to adapt to tidal waves of nachos and pizza.
'These days we need to do things no self-respecting Neanderthal would have considered: brush our teeth three times a day, floss, drink fluoridated water, fill cavities, and use dentures. (It's worth noting that these practices are far from common, or necessary, in any wild animals.)'
.... Continues on the blogs for my ocean-travel adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, at


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