6

votes

Removing Food Debris: Did Our Hunter-Gatherer Ancestors Floss?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 01, 2011 at 6:06 AM

I find flossing to be essential after eating Paleo meals. Pieces of beef and pork get stuck in my teeth and I can't get them out except with my trusty, old floss. In fact, I floss twice a day. I even floss while driving.

How did our hunter-gatherer ancestors cope with the food getting stuck? Was there flossing? Did they use crude toothpicks? Or did they simply let them stay stuck? Whether doing so would induce tooth decay down the road is my follow-up question, then -- perhaps that was not so much a problem since sugar wasn't really consumed.

Or was this immaterial since the Paleolithic era preceded the age of braces and the advent of cosemetic orthodentistry. In other words, teeth would have grown at all angles and gaps between teeth would have been rather wide, allowing easy removal of stuck debris. If so, is the problem of stuck food particles a Neolithic phenomenon? That is, the tight junction between teeth and the tiny additives and harmful ingredients (e.g., granulated cane sugar) which dominate modern, Neolithic cooking?

What did Price and Pottinger think about the lack of flossing among the indigenous tribes they visited? Inquiring modern Paleo minds wanna know how such pesky problems were handled back yonder.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 01, 2011
at 09:13 PM

I can verify the toothpick thing; I'm 64 and when I was a kid most of the nonsmokers had toothpicks hanging out of their mouths all the time. Also smokers who were trying to quit. :-))

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 01, 2011
at 08:56 PM

And you might want to avoid those that are toxic/poisonous or food in your teeth will be the least of your problems!

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on November 01, 2011
at 07:27 PM

You might be talking about miswak: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miswak

Ef9f83cb4e1826261a44c173f733789e

(13635)

on November 01, 2011
at 10:12 AM

A chicken leg has that one toothpick-like bone that's perfect for the job.

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3 Answers

2
1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on November 01, 2011
at 11:45 AM

Early man had wide jaws and dental arches. Food gets stuck between most people's teeth nowadays due to crowding of the teeth. Any particles left over from the previous meal would no doubt be worked out by saliva or by drinking liquids, or come out while eating the next meal.

Homo ergaster--

removing-food-debris:-did-our-hunter-gatherer-ancestors-floss?

2
8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on November 01, 2011
at 06:10 AM

Plant fibers can work well. Beet fiber is strong and flexible and would be my first choice. Toothpicks were common for people until recently. You can use chicken bones for that.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 01, 2011
at 09:13 PM

I can verify the toothpick thing; I'm 64 and when I was a kid most of the nonsmokers had toothpicks hanging out of their mouths all the time. Also smokers who were trying to quit. :-))

Ef9f83cb4e1826261a44c173f733789e

(13635)

on November 01, 2011
at 10:12 AM

A chicken leg has that one toothpick-like bone that's perfect for the job.

1
93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on November 01, 2011
at 12:05 PM

I vaguely remember a Scientific American story about some subsaharan tribe who used twigs from a particular tree, and analysis showed that the wood contained some antiseptic properties, and blah blah blah. In hindsight, maybe the researcher overdid it, just for academic kudos.

But anyway, yeah, chewing on twigs and wiping the splintered ends through your teeth, that works fine. Find your favorite local tree or bush, one that splinters just right, and there's your toothbrush/toothpick/dental hygienist.

Not exactly rocket science.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on November 01, 2011
at 07:27 PM

You might be talking about miswak: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miswak

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 01, 2011
at 08:56 PM

And you might want to avoid those that are toxic/poisonous or food in your teeth will be the least of your problems!

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