Take care of your teeth, your dentist says, because they have to last you your whole life. But the truth is that even with a few cavities they'll probably outlast you—by tens of thousands of years. In fact, a set of teeth and perhaps a piece of a jaw are often all anthropologists have to work with when combing the fossil record for clues about human evolution. Fortunately, these ancient dental records can provide a wealth of information about our ancestors—from what they ate to how they lived. In this video, associate professor of anthropology Shara Bailey describes some of the things teeth have taught us about where we came from—and what special adaptations we still carry in our mouths today. By identifying a particular tooth, for example, she was able to help prove that humans coexisted with Neanderthals in the same area of western Europe about 42,000 years ago.

For more on her other research, click here.