How the Modern World Changed Your Body

Crooked teeth, bad eyes, and a broken brain — thanks, technology!

George Dillard
7 min readMay 29, 2024
Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

You have many advantages over your distant ancestors. You’ll almost certainly live longer, you enjoy heating and air conditioning, you’ve got access to a world of information on your phone, and you can fly from one part of the world to another. You’d be a fool to envy the people who lived a couple of hundred years ago.

But there is one thing that your great-great-great-grandparents had that you probably don’t: a strong, healthy jaw. Your jaw is weak compared to the people of the past, and your teeth are probably more crooked than theirs were, as well.

When I was in 8th grade, wearing my headgear to bed and picking food out of my braces, I often wondered why my mouth had been so poorly designed. Why did I get cavities in my teeth? Why did I need my wisdom teeth removed? Why did I have to endure a mouth full of metal for two years? And why did my dog — who literally chewed on sticks and ate poop — have such a maintenance-free mouth? Her teeth weren’t crooked, and, though her breath left something to be desired, she never had a cavity in her life.

It turns out that the human mouth isn’t designed poorly. Instead, modern living has warped our mouths. A 2020 study published in BioScience argued that…