Ag blamed for tooth decay

Here we go, another blame on agriculture for something that I believe is far-fetched.

On the Scientific American website, an article relates modern tooth decay to have originated in the mouth of a rodent (sick.), and found its way to our teeth – get this – thanks to agriculture.

Apparently, according to the article, the study of human teeth suggests that before our ancestors started cultivating plants for food, cavities were uncommon. Tooth decay, it seems, spread once we changed to an agricultural lifestyle.

Supposed evidence from Omar Eduardo Cornejo Ordaz, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Stanford School of Medicine, and his colleagues back up this hypothesis. They analyzed the genomes of several strains of the prevalent caries-causing bacterium to determine when new genes evolved in this species and its close relatives. The team’s statistical analyses suggest the bacteria’s population started expanding exponentially about 10,000 years ago, which coincides quite nicely with the birth of agriculture. Can we say coincidence?

Other research findings suggest that when the Nubian people living in northern Sudan and southern Egypt switched to intensive agriculture, the incidence of caries in the population jumped from 0.8 percent to nearly 20 percent.

Obviously not being a dentist or dental hygienist, I reached out to my Facebook friends for any clarification. One of my college friends who is now a dental hygienist said, “I think it is a little bit of a stretch to say that agriculture brought the rats that brought the bacteria. I don’t know the origin of the cavity causing bacteria but I just assumed it was always in some people that just spread…. I wouldn’t blame it on agriculture.”

I’ll agree with one thing from the article. It stated that not all researchers agree with the rat hypothesis. Peter Brown, a paleoanthropologist from the University of New England in Australia, thinks the emergence of tooth decay relates to sugar in the human diet. Duh.

I’m sure the dental industry can thank technology for many innovations that have improved the mouths of people for decades – just like agriculture uses technology to grow more food for a growing world. Maybe they should chew on that.

4 thoughts on “Ag blamed for tooth decay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *