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TheGeckomancer

Something I Have Always Been Curious About

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What is the evolutionary advantage of tooth pain for humans or any primates for that matter? No one from the Primate order besides humans has ever had the ability to treat tooth pain, and we only got better at stopping tooth pain than inflicting it (in attempts to alleviate it) in the last 200 years or so. I get the overall purpose of pain. If something is injured you nurse it, go easy wait for it to heal. Teeth don't do that. All the pain does is decrease your ability to function, drain energy that could be used for survival tasks, and make eating harder.

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Might be so we refrain from using them on something too tough to bite through.

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If you have an infection from an abscess, the only thing you could do for it without dentistry is to rest, let your body fight the infection. This may be a case where chewing food could spread the infection, or one where rest is considered a more primary concern than eating.

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Dentistry dates back more than 200 years.

 

Our self-inflicted tooth problems are relatively recent on an evolutionary scale. i.e. problems caused by our diet since we settled down in the last ~10,000 years. What fraction of dental problems does that represent?

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Dentistry dates back more than 200 years.

 

Our self-inflicted tooth problems are relatively recent on an evolutionary scale. i.e. problems caused by our diet since we settled down in the last ~10,000 years. What fraction of dental problems does that represent?

 

That's a good point. Hunter/gatherers didn't have as many problems with their teeth. Lots of fossils of really bad teeth on early agrarian societies, though.

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I'm sure I recently read something about many animals self medicating (*) by, for example, eating plants with antibacterial properties (which are not part of their normal diet). So it is quite possible that animals would seek out plants that either help with the pain or the infection.

 

And I suppose early humans could have done things like pull out (or knock out?) painful teeth - which is drastic but potentially better than having a diseased tooth.

 

(*) It turns out there is a word for this: zoopharmacognosy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoopharmacognosy

 

This is probably related to the development of herbal medicine in human populations.

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Not everything biological has a direct evolutionary reason for being present. Many issues are a peripheral result of something else that was selected. Be cautious when trying to force an evolutionary reason on to things or when asking why something got selected since they so often are better described as unintended byproducts of something else.

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Do not let a abscessed tooth go for long, I ended up with osteomyelitis, 4 operations and a metal plate replacing my lower jaw...

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Could be that our hunter/gatherer long-gone ancestors would have had bad teeth also had they lived past the ripe old age of 35.

I would venture teeth are like tires, they have a wear rating.

Maybe agrarian societies outlived their hunter/gatherer fathers, and just like present day humans, outlast their teeth.

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Could be that our hunter/gatherer long-gone ancestors would have had bad teeth also had they lived past the ripe old age of 35.

I would venture teeth are like tires, they have a wear rating.

Maybe agrarian societies outlived their hunter/gatherer fathers, and just like present day humans, outlast their teeth.

 

Actually, based on fossil records, you're right about the "wear rating", but wrong about the h/g's shorter lifespan being responsible for better teeth. The agrarian societies chewed on grains and tubers much more than the h/g groups, wearing the teeth at a faster rate. The diet of the h/g groups was more geared to meats and greens.

 

Mummies show that Egyptian society fostered bad dentition. There are examples of agrarians using roots to protect their teeth, but for the most part, h/g societies had better teeth because they didn't eat so many carbs.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/07/140716-sudan-sedge-toothbrush-teeth-archaeology-science/

Early humans generally had relatively few cavities, thanks in part to meals that were heavy on the meat, light on the carbs.

Access to sweets via fruits and berries increased with agriculture also, rather than more randomly found in a nomadic lifestyle. I'd like to give credit to eating more meat, but it was probably the carbs that ruined teeth more quickly before people figured out how to fix them.

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Thanks, for the info.

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Thanks, for the info.

 

I did this research some time ago, trying to figure out if a low-carb diet was right for me. I go to great lengths to justify save my bacon. ;)

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Actually, based on fossil records, you're right about the "wear rating", but wrong about the h/g's shorter lifespan being responsible for better teeth
It's also misleading to think of h/g people as having shorter lifespans. They had higher rates of trauma mortality in youth, and lower rates of childbirth, but barring accident, war, and the like, they lived longer in better health: generally the transition to agriculture is marked by a drop in expected lifespan, a reduction in adult height, and poorer health as revealed in skeletal lesions and disorders (including bad teeth).

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I recall reading an article years ago, I think it was in National Geographics, where they were exhuming for study the founders of Maryland. They stated they could Identify the wealthiest members of the society by their advanced dental decay from the citrus fruits, probably acquired from areas further south on the eastern seaboard. They said the governor's wife must have been in continual pain from her advanced state of decay.

 

I have also heard over the years, from to many sources to count, of how societies from the Egyptians and Romans up to the present sustained increased dental wear due to the grit in the flour from grains that were stone ground.

 

http://www.cadentalgroup.com/are-your-teeth-as-healthy-as-a-medieval-peasants/

 

"Today we tend to think of the Middle Ages as a dark and backwards time when most people had short lifespans and a very poor quality of life. So you might be surprised to learn that when it came to dental hygiene and oral health, medieval Europeans actually had a better track record than modern Americans in some respects."

 

The main reason that medieval Europeans did not have high rates of tooth decay has to with their diet. Refined sugar was not readily available during this time. It was used mainly by the wealthy, and even then it was used as a condiment rather than a main ingredient. Without lots of sugars in the diet, oral bacteria had less fuel to create acid and cause tooth decay. Medieval Europeans also had a lot of calcium from dairy products in their diet which helped promote strong teeth.

 

Dental Hygiene

"Medieval people were concerned with keeping their teeth clean and their breath fresh, and historians have found many recipes for pastes, powders, and mouthwashes. While they did not have toothbrushes, they did use linen cloths to rub their teeth clean which may have helped remove some plaque. Ingredients like sage, rosemary, peppermint, cinnamon, mace, cloves, and parsley were all used to help breath smell more pleasant."

 

Tooth Wear

"One dental problem medieval Europeans did have was tooth wear. This occurred because their bread was made from stone-ground grain, which contained a lot of grit. Over time, this caused significant wear on teeth. Some experts suspect this may have had a side benefit in that with the deep crevices in molars worn away, there was less opportunity for decay to take root. However, eventually the abrasion could cause tooth loss."

 

Oral Surgery

"Medieval Europeans were lucky not to have high rates of tooth decay because restorative dental treatments were extremely poor. The main treatment for every ill was to remove the tooth. This procedure was performed by the local barber without any anesthetic besides a stiff drink."

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It might just be that the nerves in the teeth are there to prevent you from eating rocks and other really hard stuff that could damage your teeth. But as there is a big hard tooth between the nerve and the food, the nerve will have to be quite sensitive to feel trough the tooth as it were. So the nerves in teeth need to be very sensitive. But if something unintended then attacks the nerve directly…

Edited by Geert

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All animals with central nervous systems have the ability to discern the sensation that we refer to as "pain."

 

As said sensation is caused by nerve cells sending signals to the brain.

 

It is a purely physiological response. And is borne of and carried out via purely physical pathologies.

 

So...no "reasoning" or "ethical purposes" are involved. The central nervous system does not "know" or "care" that its host organism cannot do anything to alleviate or moderate the pain.

 

But us primates, and indeed most other members of the kingdom Animalia evolved with this ability to feel pain.

 

Why?

 

Because it was a part of Selective Inheritance. Since, those species who first had the ability to discern pain used that sensation as a sort of warning flag to desist in doing some activity that was posing potential fatal injury to them.

 

Thus, those who acknowledged these biological "red flags" were far more likely to survive, and in turn thrive and dominate and produce offspring, then were the unfortunate organisms who ignored the pain sensations.

 

The "why" of feeling pain, in our dentition or anywhere else, is no more a part of the process than. say, asking why blood still tries to coagulate when the injury causing the blood loss is fatal anyway.

 

Or why do men have nipples?

 

LOL

 

Oh..wait a minute, that's a vestigial trait.

 

Hmm...but so is this whole Pain thing!

 

Sweet.

 

Hope this helps, thanks!

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