We’ve all heard the basic science about how teeth relate to diet: We know that carnivores have sharp teeth to help them rip and tear meat, and plant-eaters have wide, flat teeth to better chew fibrous materials. But Silvia Pineda-Munoz, an evolutionary biologist at the National Museum of Natural History, is taking that research further.

The shape of our teeth can tell us about our diet.

Mapping Animals’ Teeth

Pineda-Munoz is using a map-making tool called GIS (which stands for geographic information system) to analyze the spatial data of animals’ teeth and quantify it. She then compiles that data into a database that now holds maps of the teeth of over 100 species of mammals.

This allows scientists to directly compare the teeth of different species and identify which features are different or alike between them. Pineda-Munoz identified six features related to food-processing. Determining where an animal’s teeth fall on the scales of those six features will give scientists information about that animal’s diet.

University of Arkansas anthropology professor Peter Ungar is also using GIS to map teeth. Ungar is tackling one specific species of mammal: Humans. His work is focused on mapping and creating a database of fossil human teeth to learn more about how our diet has evolved alongside us.

However, Ungar isn’t studying how the shape of our teeth relate to our diet — he’s studying how their wear patterns relate to our diet. By examining and quantifying the tiny pits and scratches on teeth, scientists receive clues about what foods those teeth were most frequently tasked with chewing.

Protect Your Diet by Protecting Your Teeth

Our teeth, just like those fossil teeth, are also impacted by what we eat. The best way to keep your teeth healthy regardless of your diet is to make sure to brush and floss regularly and follow your dentist’s instructions on good day-to-day oral hygiene. It’s also important to get regular cleanings and checkups with your dentist.

Unfortunately, sometimes our teeth can prevent us from having a nutritious diet as well. Missing teeth can limit your diet. The foods you cut out because they’re too hard to chew may include unprocessed meat and raw fruits and vegetables. Dental implants can allow you to get back to the diet you had before tooth loss got in the way.

Dental implants are a permanent solution to missing teeth. Since they work just like your own teeth, they don’t require any special cleaning or maintenance. Plus, unlike some more temporary solutions, you won’t have to worry about the tooth coming out when you’re eating, talking, or laughing. Implants are strong and stable, so you can chew any food you want! They can last for the rest of your life, and their success rate is over 90%, making them a safe and reliable choice.
Call (407) 834-6446 to make an appointment with Orlando implant dentist Dr. Michael L. Weinstock to determine if you’re a good candidate for dental implants.