No need for braces before agriculture


Typical lower jaw from a hunter-gatherer, and aborigins from early 1900’s.

Before we invented agriculture our ancestors mostly had perfectly aligned teeth, without dental crowding or the need for braces. These tooth and jaw problems – which are now extremely common – are rarely or never seen in skeletons from our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

This is yet again showed in a new review of a few hundred European skeletons from the period 26,000 to 4,000 B.C.:

Malocclusion and dental crowding arose 12,000 years ago with earliest farmers

Similar findings have been seen many times before and are of great interest to everyone who has children with growing faces. How do you make them get as well-formed and well-functioning teeth and jaws as possible? Something in our modern environment messes things up – but what?

After discussing this with some experts in the field (for example at the Ancestral Health Symposiums), I’ve three things that seem important for well-formed jaws and teeth. Three things that we’re trying to follow with our children.

Three Likely Important Things

1. Breastfeed as long as possible – preferably one or even two years of partial nursing. This was the norm in past times and may contribute to the development of wider jaws where all teeth fit.

2. Ensure that children regularly chew on hard, chewy things – like our ancestors did. Not just modern junk and wheat-based food that completely lack chewing resistance. Resistance and chewing strengthens the jaw muscles and may contribute to a normal development of the jaws.

3. Limit the amount of (simple) carbohydrates. Overdoses may potentially provide abnormally high levels of growth-stimulating hormones like insulin and IGF-1 which may disturb growth of bone structures.

Especially numbers two and three may have been dramatically disturbed in conjunction with the agricultural transition, when today’s problems really started.


Do I know that the things stated above are important? No. But there are good reasons to suspect they are. The more of the things you ignore perhaps the greater the risk for dental crowding and jaws that don’t fit well together. Which may led to functional disadvantages as well as cosmetic ones. This is of course nothing you would wish upon your children.

How are our children’s jaws doing? So far so good. Perhaps it’s pure luck. Perhaps not.



  1. Wendy kendrick
    While these are all good points, 12000 years ago we didn't have the same amount of inter marriages as we do now. Therefore people married others with similar jaw structures and similar teeth.
  2. Mike
    The black-and-white photographs showing two sets of teeth so perfect that the photographer described them as "looking like false teeth" and the stunningly attractive and vibrantly healthy Aboriginal girl come from Chapter 10 of Weston Price's anthropological classic "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" which everyone should read:

    I think it's important to be exhaustive and accurate and having pointed to this source, I'll also note that near-perfect teeth that had grown straight and had virtually no decay, and whose owners had enjoyed normal facial development, were also to be found in the Loetschental Valley (see Chapter 3) and the Isle of Lewis (see Chapter 4). These latter cultures were not hunter-gatherer cultures and did eat a fair amount of carbohydrate.

    Let's not be selective in our use of Price's great work, or we'll never get at the truth.

    And come to think of it, I'm not sure that Australian Aborigines ate a particularly low-carbohydrate diet.

    What none of these people did was to eat a low-fat diet. Their diets of all the groups Price studied were also, he said, particularly high in important minerals and in fat-soluble vitamins.

    Perhaps it's not what people *didn't* eat, but what they *did* eat that's the important factor here.

    Putting "Limit the amount of carbohydrates" but adding "simple" in brackets - as was done in (1) above - kind of tries to have it both ways at once. Likely that *should* read simple and no brackets—although doubtless limiting all carbohydrates is a good strategy for a number of reasons. (But let's be careful not to outrun the evidence.)

    In fine, these steps sound sensible enough to me, but so does eating a nutrient-dense diet, particularly one that has abundant sources of important minerals. Price himself thought that some of the best teeth he'd seen were to be found among people who had access to seafoods, which is very mineral-rich. I'd also have thought that making sure one has a sufficient intake of fat-soluble vitamins would be wise, too. Previous generations of Scandinavians (and Hebridean Scots) would have consumed liver, including fish livers or drunk cod liver oil.

    Reply: #11
  3. Kjell Granelli
    Interestingly, Weston Price identified the fat soluble "activator X" as lacking in people whose jaws became narrow in populations which had recently abandonded their traditional food. With today's knowledge, my bet is that the cause of malocclusion and dental crowding is a lack of dietary K2 during pregnancy and infancy. Before adopting a more "western" lifestyle, these populations would have received K2 from grass fed animals and an abundance of leafy greens, whose K1 can, if adequately available, be converted into K2.
  4. Anna
    I took notice of Price's writings around the time I had my child and decided it would be in her best interest to follow similar guidelines with some caveats: I was unable to breastfeed partially, as my supply shut down after 7 months, and my child eats food I consider unacceptable at her daycare, as she is not allowed to bring food from home. However, I feed her a whole foods diet with no added sugar at home and a cod liver oil supplement to try to make up the difference. Her teeth and jaws look excellent right now (she is almost 4). Myself, bottle fed with the best intentions and with none of the dietary precautions, have a lower jaw full of crowded, crooked teeth and had my wisdom teeth extracted before they could emerge, as it was considered a standard procedure at the time.
    Reply: #8
  5. erdoke
    I also bet on the importance of minerals and fat soluble vitamins. One more thing to add: foods causing high blood sugar do seem to interfere with the action of vitamin K2 on teeth to some extent.
  6. Cindy C
    The diet can include some grains, if it also has a good measure of foods containing vitamin D, and other fat soluble vitamins. This is most important that the mother has those nutrients when the baby in in the womb. The baby needs sunshine, or D from the diet. Eggs and meat are important to the growing child.

    Reply: #9
  7. Cindy C
    Seems even deer and sheep will eat birds/bones to get minerals.

  8. Galina L.
    From my experience I can tell that It is not really necessary to watch carefully what your child eats outside of your house. I cook all my food, sweets are a rare occasion, snacks are discouraged, but sourcream and cheese are here to grab. It was enough for my son to grew up without cavities and a need for a braces.
  9. erdoke
    Do not forget that both grains and legumes were heavily preprocessed at and after the dawn of agriculture. These are full of anti-nutrients that reduce or completely block digestibility and/or absorption of nutrients. High amounts of phytic acid for example significantly reduce the bioavailability of important minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
    Not to mention the good old report on the 40 % drop of mineral content occurring together with new dwarf varieties.
  10. FrankG
    Another situation where common sense prevails. Think about our hunter-gatherer ancestors... why would they have evolved with teeth that rot and decay on their (our) natural diet? How could they even survive without toothbrushes, floss and access to Dentists?

    Nowadays if watching a documentary with anthropologists examining early modern human, or Neanderthal remains, I will immediately be looking for the skull; to see how invariably, the teeth look healthy.

    From my own experience: I can relate to a rapid deterioration of teeth and gums, around being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and for the first few years following the established dietary advice. Since I switched to an LCHF approach, my teeth and gums have become significantly stronger, cleaner and healthier.


    A word about the Weston Price book mentioned above... I highly recommend reading this but be warned that some the language of his time might seem racist to our more politically correct generation. I do not believe that his intent was racist.

  11. alan
    Why would you say "I'm not sure that Australian Aborigines ate a particularly low-carbohydrate diet."? I would say that it was LC. I could dig the references out....
  12. alan

    Three Aboriginal Australian groups (back to H/Gering): "Traveling" ate 10% carbs; "Coastal" ate <5% carbs; and "Inland" ate 33% carbs. Not perfect data but definitely low carb.

  13. Bea
    Sally Fallon (of the Weston Price Foundation) has an interesting lecture on-line "The Oiling of America" where she extensively discusses Weston Price's findings on teeth, cavities and a broad facial structure using a number of his photos to illustrate her points. She singles out liver in particular as a nutrient dense food. But what is interesting is how Weston Price found healthy isolated populations around the world who ate both HFLC as well as higher carbs and and very little meat diet - yet were healthy with great teeth. What they all had in common was highly nutritious food (including foods that held a symbolic / religious significance such as the first Alpine spring butter). In particular, the people he studied had not been exposed to a western diet.

    The group he studied, that I find most fascinating, was the isolated Swiss village that ate mainly cheese, butter and sour dough rye bread. Having a German Mum, I grew up with these foods on a daily basis (however, I was also exposed to refined flour and sugar for a weekend treat.!). My Mum was born in Germany 1943 (during a bomb raid by the Brits) and lived in post war Germany where everything the family ate grew in the back of the garden and they raised their own pigs to slaughter once a year. Milk was raw and came from her grandparents cow. To this day (at the age of 71) she doesn't have a single cavity and all her own teeth. I wish I could say the same for me!

  14. Eric Anderson
    Sir Edward Mellanby did research on Vitamin D and tested the grain free diet on dental health in the 1920s

    Pottenger and his cats

    And in more modern times Dr Richard K Bernstein

    remind me "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food"


  15. NaomiK
    Gosh Anna, you did so well with your child, but I would be finding another childcare facility. How dare they try to undermine all the good you have done. Bet your daughter is bouncing off the walls when you bring her home!
    I wish I'd known the harm I was doing to my son - 30-odd years ago. The only reason he had good teeth was because of the flouride I took and he consumed in the water (in Sydney). Now I find out that the flouride I lauded was probably doing terrible things to our pineal gland. My teeth and gums are so much healthier now that I oil-pull with coconut oil, don't eat any grains or sugar, and don't use flouride. :)

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