How much impact does lifestyle have on jaw shape?

Your lifestyle affects many aspects of your health. For example, you’re less likely to have heart disease is you exercise regularly, and you’re more likely to have lung cancer if you smoke.

UK anthropologist Dr. Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel says that our lifestyle may change the shape of our jaws.

The Study

To test this theory, Taubadel made detailed measurements of the skulls and jawbones of nearly 300 individuals from 11 different cultures with varying backgrounds, means of survival, and daily habits from the past few thousand years.

She found that skulls of people from hunter-gatherer societies had long, narrow jaws, while those who lived an agriculture-based life tended to have short, broad jawbones. When she considered other factors, such as climate, geographic location, genetics, heredity, and type of lifestyle, genetics and heredity were the only factors that proved to be insignificant when determining what type of jawbone was present. This suggests that the jawbone shape and size was dependent on something biochemical, such as lifestyle, location, and daily habits, rather than genetic make-up.

The Reason

Taubadel believes that chewing habits may have an impact on the jaw structure. For example, the hunter-gatherers may have chewed more than people who ate farmed food because agricultural populations tend to have a starch-based diet, which may be softer. Additionally, hunter-gatherers most likely chew for more of the day as they tend to “graze”” rather than eat at definite meal times.

The Relevance

Even though the subjects of the study were people of the past, there is some relevance to us. Because of our relatively soft, highly-processed diet, we chew less than our ancestors did. This has potentially lead to a shortening of the jaw and, as a result, overcrowded teeth.

Interesting, isn’t it? San Jose dentist Dr. Randy LaFrom treats patients with a variety of jawbone health needs. If you have pain or discomfort in your jaw, or if you notice that something has changed within any of your oral structures, call LaFrom Dentistry, serving the areas of Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, and Los Gatos, at (408) 996-8595 or visit us online at

~ by cupertinodentist on January 21, 2012.

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