Episode 19 The Culture of Teeth with Dr. Julia Boughner

Anthropologist on the Street
Anthropologist on the Street
Episode 19 The Culture of Teeth with Dr. Julia Boughner

Dr. Julia Boughner (photo by and included with permission from Dr. Boughner)

What do cultural practices have to do with how our teeth and jaws develop? Biological Anthropologist Dr. Julia Boughner works with dentists and oral surgeons to answer the question: why do modern humans in industrialized nations face dental problems that don’t affect primates, modern hunter-gatherers, and previous generations of humans? The key may be in what we eat and how we prepare it.

Over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, our jaws have become smaller and weaker as our preferred foods became softer as humans (and our hominid ancestors) used hands, fire, and tools to do the work jaws used to do. Dr. Boughner explores evolution (and its misperceptions), science journalism, and how anthropology can be integral in developing safer and more effective dentistry.

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For more information on Dr. Boughner:

Dr. Boughner’s university page: https://medicine.usask.ca/profiles/anatomy-and-cell-biology/boughner,-julia.php

Links to Dr. Boughner’s scholarly work: https://scholar.google.ca/citations?user=1QiHJKYAAAAJ&hl=en

More information on the material referenced in our conversation:

An important article by anthropologist Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel about the change in jaws of hunter gatherers versus agriculturalists over their lifespans: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22106280

Paul A. Trainor’s article: “Developmental Biology: We Are All Walking Mutants” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292463249_Developmental_Biology_We_Are_All_Walking_Mutants

Websites that help explain how evolution works and what some popular misconceptions are:



More information on the science outreach project Dr. Boughner began based on the Café Scientifique model:




Information on Dr. Boughner’s former radio show:

This is the radio station link: http://www.citr.ca/about/

“My Science Project” gets a nod in this 2006 article: https://news.ubc.ca/2006/12/07/archive-ubcreports-2006-06dec07-incubator/

Other examples of science journalism and biological anthropology mentioned in the episode:

Science journalist Christie Nicholson: https://www.scientificamerican.com/author/christie-nicholson/

Dr. Tim Molnar (quoted in conversation): https://www.usask.ca/education/profiles/molnar.php)

AOTS interview with Sara Becker: https://anthropologistonthestreet.com/2017/08/21/episode-7-ancient-bones-peaceful-coexistence-with-dr-sara-k-becker/

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