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Is Poor Nutrition the Cause of Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
If you ask your dentist about the Cause of Impacted Wisdom Teeth, he’ll probably give you some vague uprovable answer about evolution making human’s jaws smaller over time, but is that really true? Is there any evidence that ‘evolution’ is the cause of impacted wisdom teeth? Wisdom teeth, also called the Third Molars, are the furthest back teeth, erupt between the ages of about 16 and 25 years old and are the last teeth to come in. In a large percentage of the population, these third molars either come in improperly or get ‘stuck’ behind other teeth, leading to infection, pain and other dental problems.
According to most dental sources, these ‘impacted’ wisdom teeth are considered ‘Normal’ due to the human evolution towards a smaller jaw. In the research of isolated cultures by a curious dentist, however, his findings prove that impacted wisdom teeth are a problem caused by nutrition and NOT evolution.
In the mid 1930’s, an adventurous dentist set out to study some of the most isolated cultures on earth. His travels sent him from beautiful Swiss mountain villages, to vast African plains, to the tundra of northern Canada. In each village, Dr. Weston Price took measurements and pictures of the faces and teeth of people who still ate exclusively as their ancestors had for generations. Most had never, or almost never, eaten processed foods such as sugar or white flour. Shockingly he found that, almost without exception, people who had never eaten processed foods had healthy and functional third molars!
In order to make sure that this was not due to genetics, Dr. Price also did studies of the people from these villages who had migrated to the nearby cities and had begun eating processed foods. He consistently found that cultures in which there were no processed foods, the adults all had healthy, erupted and functional third molars; those who DID eat processed food had impacted wisdom teeth in the same percentage as the other city dwellers. His findings also are valid for cavities, too, as is explained in the post The Inconvenient Truth About Cavities.
The explanation that the cause of impacted wisdom teeth is due to the evolution of the human jaw over many generations is refuted by Dr. Price’s findings, yet that is still what your dentist will tell you. However, Dr. Price observed that this change occurred in only one single generation- and only upon the introduction of processed foods! In order to further solidify this theory, he visited the Tongan Islands which had the perfect conditions to allow for studying this phenomenon. Before World War I, the island was almost completely isolated with virtually no processed foods. After the war, however, the island was consistently visited by westerners who traded for, among other products, sugar and white flour in exchange for the valuable dried coconut called ‘copra’. However, the traders- along with their processed foods- disappeared when the market for copra dried up.
Interestingly, the elders of the island, who had no access to processed foods until adulthood, had upright functional wisdom teeth. The next generation, who had eaten processed foods as children, had high rates of third molar impaction, but the young adults who were born after the traders and their processed foods had left had functional erupted wisdom teeth- even when their parents didn’t. Along with pictures and measurements of jawbone and facial width, Dr. Price’s theory was confirmed; the eating of processed foods, not evolution, causes incomplete development of the jaw leading to impacted third molars.
Unfortunately this ‘politically incorrect’ theory that poor nutrition is responsible for the modern problem of impacted wisdom teeth is vehemently denied by the dental industry. No matter what evidence, when an entire specialty of dentistry is devoted to making money by removing ‘evolutionarily unnecessary’ teeth and when entire swaths of the economy are dependent upon nutritionally bereft foods, teaching that impacted wisdom teeth are not a necessary part of the human condition is simply not a popular stance.