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Bigger Brains, Smaller Teeth: Kelowna Dental Clinic Examines Evolution Trend


You know what they say, Big brains, small…teeth? Our Kelowna dentists have read new research that suggests human teeth have been getting smaller as our brains have been getting bigger, and we’re the only primates in the last 2.5 million years to experience this ‘evolutionary paradox.’

The findings, gathered by a team of Spanish researchers with the University of Granada’s pre-, have stumped scientists. Typically, if a primate’s brain grows, so would its food consumption and the teeth. But that hasn’t been the case for us homo sapiens.

The pearly whites we see at our Kelowna dental clinic are significantly smaller than those of our ancestors, and that’s always been the trend, according to the study.

“Before we started the study, it was well known that, throughout the evolution of humans, tooth-size diminished and brain-size increased,” says researcher Juan Manuel Jimenez-Arenas, the author of the study that recently published in BioMed Research International.

“We have established that they are two opposing evolutionary trends that have been linked for 2.5 million years, when our first ancestors within the Homo genus first appeared on the evolutionary stage.”

Jimenez-Arenas says that ‘evolutionary paradox’ means “…significant changes must have occurred in order to maintain this trend.”

What kind of changes? An obvious one is our diet. The patients we see at our Kelowna dental clinic have access to much healthier and higher calorie food (ie. steak), that lets us eat smaller amounts but still get the nutrition we need for a healthy body and a healthy brain.

Plus, those bigger brains are responsible for developing all the agricultural technology—farming tools, crop science—that also brings us better food.

Scientists have always known the teeth, our body’s first tools for digestion, have been getting smaller. What they didn’t know was for how long, or if man was the only primate to experience this inverse relationship between a bigger brain and smaller teeth.

‘Here we show that there is an essential difference between the genus Homo and the living primate species,’ says Jimenez-Arenas, whose team studied the size of post-canine teeth and the volume of the endocranium in a range of primates.

So, what’s going to happen to our teeth as we continue to get smarter?

Whether you’re visiting us for cosmetic or general dentistry, we provide a comfortable experience with results that will last. Contact us to book an appointment today!

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