A failure of the process
Now, I will state up front that I’m an engineer and musician by training. I am not a biologist. But I believe myself to be well acquainted with matters of science, including evolutionary biology. Hell, any high school kid in this country, at least the ones in regions where we still use non-fiction textbooks, will know that features which give organisms a greater chance to survive long enough to reproduce will lead to that organism’s success as a population. It’s a beautiful, simple idea, as all the great ones are. It just makes sense.
We, of course, are products of this process, too. It’s been particularly successful in selecting for our brains, though very clearly not in every individual case. You can consider other features of our bodies and understand how they were selected for, either by the time we were clearly separated as homo sapiens, or long before. Opposable thumbs, upright locomotion, stereoscopic vision, mammary glands: these are all obviously winning concepts when you’re trying to eat, defend yourself, and raise the next generation until they’re old enough to make yet another generation.
Sensory perception is a particular wonder to me. The retina, the cochlea, and the dense webs of nerve endings in our fingertips and feet are astonishingly successful wet engineering projects. Critical for survival, sure, but also our gateways to so much beauty and pleasure for these giant brains we carry around.
But sweet, crispy jeebus crackers, I need someone to explain to me, right here and right now, what possible advantage to us as a species is manifested in wiring up our teeth with so gotdamn many ways to feel pain. They are stupid bones, vitally and obviously necessary chunks of calcium phosphate. How was their 400 ways to hurt (and hurt like a BITCH) helpful to us as we were advancing from whatever predecessor species that only slurped tiny sea critters or whatever? Why are they wired up with the same nerve density as, apparently, our sexual organs, although only in ways that cause excruciating pain? Why do they need any nerve endings at all? It’s not like early mammals or precursor homo went to the dentist. Seems like this is a pure failure of the process. There is no reason for this much pain. If a tooth dies or is damaged, shouldn’t it ought to just go away and let the host get along with the other 30-ish? Do we have to be tortured? Unable to enjoy cold beer or hot coffee or hard candy? God dammit, Charles.
ti;dr: I’m getting a crown this morning and I’m a giant baby and it’s gonna hurt and I hate teeth.