Looking through painted and photographed portraits of those who lived centuries before us, you won’t find many people revealing a full set of braces when they smile. Some might attribute this to the lack of orthodontic technology in the past, but, the truth is that our teeth are different than our ancestors’.

Let’s take it all the way back to the days of the hunters and gatherers, whose mouths appeared much different than ours before they even opened to reveal teeth. Most hunters and gatherers had larger, powerful, more jutting jaws. Some experts attribute this to the fact that they needed more space and strength to chew the raw and tough foods that they ate.

As time wore on and technology advanced, civilizations and farms started cropping up and the days of the hunter-gatherer came to an end. With the end of this era came the beginning of a new one in which humans prepared food so that it was softer and otherwise easier to eat. No longer did they need such a pronounced and spacious jawline, so the human body adapted. The farming era ushered in a shorter, weaker jaw that researchers believe has contributed to our crowded and crooked teeth. The human body no longer needed a strong jaw to break down raw foods, so it evolved one more adept at eating in a new and easier way. Unfortunately, the new jawline doesn’t always have the space that our teeth need to spread out.

Another similar theory suggests that the first humans had more space in their mouths because the foods that they ate were so tough and raw that they kept teeth filed down and spread out. Smaller teeth meant that there was much more space along the jaw bone. Once processed foods started hitting human mouths, though, the natural filing stopped and teeth started getting too crowded.

Regardless of which theory you tend to believe, it’s undeniable that our teeth often end up growing in a way that’s a lot less linear than we imagine. If that’s the case, modern technology makes up for the fact that our foods no longer aid us in shaping our jaws and teeth. A set of metal or clear plastic braces will give you the straight smile that you seek, and the comfortable chewing and teeth-cleaning that you deserve. And, because braces suit most any patient at any age, you can make this dream a reality in adulthood, too.

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