I’ve got crooked teeth. There’s not enough room in my face for them all, even though my face isn’t all that large on the inside. It’s a regular game of musical chairs in there and has been for years. My second molar got the last seat. My lower canines have barked my incisors sideways. There’s been a stampede for the exits. The bicuspids are overtaking the skinny ones in the front.
My molars mostly match up if I ask them to, but I could slide a small woodland creature through the front with my teeth clenched and not even rumple its fur. We’ve got a situation.
So it occurred to me the other day that as long as I was going to have to have this unsightliness I might as well find something to blame it on, and I decided to accuse my British heritage. According to the DNA wizards I’m about half British. And everybody knows British people have crooked teeth. And obviously the 4% of me that runs Neanderthal didn’t come to the fore in the tooth department, and while we’re at it, it didn’t do much for my eyebrows either.
But the internet said the British thing wasn’t so. In fact–and there were several scientific articles that agreed on this–the crooked teeth can be blamed on modernity. Specifically, it’s been a while since we humans did a lot of chewing.
So most modern people have crooked teeth. I don’t know what percentage get braces. Those used to be a lot worse. When I was growing up the braces looked like something you’d surround a penitentiary with. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, species-wise. I mean, why even have an extra molar in the back that they just have to rip out later? You suppose God flang it in there so dentists could buy a boat? The answer is, of course, that it isn’t extra. It’s supposed to be there. There’s supposed to be plenty of room in the jaw. But in most cultures we haven’t worked our jaws properly for a thousand years, and if it keeps up we’ll just end up with a cat-butt pucker-hole of a mouth and have to suck strained peas through a straw.
People used to really reef on things with their teeth. You’ve seen the dioramas. Everyone’s sitting on their haunches ripping mastodon meat with their faces and crunching on the bones for marrow. Then just for fun they chew on some animal hide until it’s pliable enough to make a canoe out of, or at least a nice lanyard. And because they are working those jaws, the bone is strengthened and lengthened. But without that exercise during the growth years, the jawbone never gets to be the proper size. Who knows? If I hadn’t grown up on overcooked vegetables and gummable meatloaf, I might have had a real jawline, and my chin wouldn’t be embedded in my neck like the button in an overstuffed chair.
So cooking is one of the big culprits. And my mom, a 1950s housewife with a Norwegian heritage to boot, never served us anything that was a challenge to chew. Tuna hot dish. Jell-O salad with tiny marshmallows. The only thing that gave me a chance was Bonomo Turkish Taffy. You get hold of one of those bad boys with your teeth, and you had to pull down and sideways on it with both of your little hands to torque off a piece. Then chew and chew. Hours later you were still sucking on it where it mortared your teeth together. I should’ve had the jaw of a Neanderthal.
The eyebrows still would have been a problem, but nobody would notice, if I added the wax lips.