From ‘stuff and cut’ to the overbite

Written by
9th June 2014

An edition of the Food Programme broadcast earlier this month included an interview with the food writer Bee Wilson, author of the book Consider the Fork. She believes that the development of the fork is responsible for the overbite most of us have today. She quoted as her source the eminent American anthropologist, Charles Loring Brace, According to Brace, until about 250 years ago our teeth met edge to edge. This was as a result of the way humans ate, putting a tough bit of food into the mouth, clamping our teeth around it, and then using a knife to cut the bit we would then chew. Brace, and yes what an appropriate name for a person featured in this blog, called this approach to food consumption “stuff-and-cut.”
With the advent of the fork and the table knife, we could cut our food into small morsels and no longer use our teeth and jaws for clamping. According to Brace, the use of utensils has drastically altered the shapes of our teeth, jaws, and faces, much like wearing corrective shoes can change the shape of feet.
This is of course a theory at this stage and I have yet to see the scientific evidence to support it. And of course, some of my patients have edge to edge bites and I’m sure it’s not because of the way they eat! During treatment, I create the space to achieve a much more comfortable and functioning overbite. I don’t think I will be able to do this in future without thinking about Bee Wilson and C. Loring Brace!

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