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Teeth: A Very Short Introduction
By Peter S. Ungar PhD
5.0 out of 5 stars (2 Reviews)
List Price: $11.95
Our Price: $6.92
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Availability:  Available for immediate delivery.
Publisher:  Oxford University Press
Edition:  1st
Published:  April 1, 2014
Binding:  Paperback
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Product Description:
Teeth are amazing -- the product of half a billion years of evolution. They provide fuel for the body by breaking apart other living things; and they must do it again and again over a lifetime without breaking in the process. This means that plants and animals have developed tough or hard tissues for protection, and teeth have evolved ways to sharpen or strengthen themselves to overcome those defenses. And just as different jobs require different tools, animals with different diets have different shaped teeth to deal with the variety of foods that they eat.

In this Very Short Introduction, Peter S. Ungar, an award-winning author and leading scientist, presents the story of teeth. Ungar outlines the key concepts, including insight into the origin of teeth and their evolution. Considering why teeth are important, he describes how they are made, and how they work, including their fundamental importance in the fossil record. Ungar finishes with a review of mammal teeth, looking at how they evolved and how recent changes to our diet are now affecting dental health.

About the Series:

Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.

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5.0 out of 5 stars.  All about teeth and more., March 23, 2015
By C. Bryan
The other reviewer makes the case for this book, and I really cannot improve on it. 'Teeth' is a marvelous little book that takes one into the animal kingdom from its very beginning to today - all through the investigation and explanation of our ability to process food. That sounds quite basic, but it is not. The evolution of all animal species, living and extinct, can be traced through odontology (the study of teeth). Ungar's clear and readable text explains what a tooth is and how it is formed, how it evolved, what it does, and how animals fuel themselves with this marvelous tool. After all, eating is the main occupation for many. But defense is a major aspect of survival, too. You will find a complex and fascinating history of animals from the earliest fossil record through today. It seems teeth don't so much adapt to the environment and the foods available, but the animals that own them progress through Natural selection as teeth modify through mutation and independent innovation - in different eras and completely different species. The stories of enamel, of why teeth have different shapes, cusps and ridges, of the muscles used to move jaws - and even the variations in those (or the lack of them) - make this one of those books where you learn much more than the title might suggest. Yes, there is complex scientific nomenclature for everything discussed. But it doesn't get in the way, and you aren't quizzed. You are, though, entertained and informed. Leaving the fossil record, one studies the only two living mammalian groups with teeth, marsupials and placentals, of which there are twenty-six orders and countless species - all with suitable choppers. The only cautionary tale here involves human adaptation to carbohydrates, and resultant caries and periodontal disease. One gains a new respect for their teeth with this reading. I recommend it. P.S. - Yes, the book covers fish, spiders, squid, etc., and reptiles, those with us and those frozen in stone.

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5.0 out of 5 stars.  Bite Sized Introduction to Teeth, January 03, 2015
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz (Indiana, USA)
Most of us use our teeth on a daily basis. However, unless we have a toothache or some other serious dental mishap we don’t give much thought to teeth and their structure. On those occasions when we do, we realize how intricate and sophisticatedly shaped teeth are.

This short book will probably give you more information about teeth than most of us thought possible. It gives an evolutionary perspective on the development of teeth, and a lot of information on the difference in tooth structure between different species. It shows how truly structurally and mechanically remarkable teeth are. I doubt that even the best mechanical engineer would be able to design anything of comparable complexity.

The most relatable parts of the book are, naturally, those that explain the structure and the function of human teeth. Nonetheless, in order to appreciate their uniqueness it was necessary to contrast them to those of other animals, including those of primates – our closest relatives. The book offers some important insights, including the reason why has orthodontry become such a big issue in the West. Our modern diets feature prominently foods that are very preprocessed and soft, which puts far less pressure on our jaws during their development. Hence they become smaller, while still accommodating teeth of the same size. On the positive note our teeth don’t wear out as quickly as those of our ancestors, but the tradeoff is that many more of us now have to wear braces at some point.

Overall, this is a very interesting and well-written book that will provide you with a lot of new information. After reading it you will never think of your teeth the same way again.

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