Our teeth are whiter, shinier, and straighter—but in terms of cavities and tooth decay, they’re not as healthy as the teeth of our ancestors, according to research published in scientific journal Nature Genetics. Learn more about this surprising discovery below.
From Carnivores to Omnivores
In order to learn more about prehistoric humans’ health and diet, an international team of researchers, led by a group at the Australian Center for Ancient DNA, extracted dental plaque from 34 prehistoric European skeletons. (Dental plaque is unique in that it is the only easily accessible source of preserved human bacteria.)
The researchers were able to trace the changes in oral bacteria from the last hunter-gatherers, through the Neolithic, medieval, Industrial Revolution, and modern eras. They found that, as humans switched from an all-meat diet to a diet high in grains and wheat, they developed more and more tooth decay. Their conclusion? While the advent of agriculture might have revolutionized our quality of living, but it wreaked havoc on our teeth.
Researchers also found that early hunter-gatherer groups had greater diversity of disease-associated bacteria. More bacterial diversity means that our ancestors’ mouths were more resilient to stresses and less likely to develop disease.
Bacteria and Tooth Decay
These finding make sense when you think about what causes tooth decay. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not sugar directly that makes teeth rot. It’s actually the bacteria that live on the teeth, who love to eat sugar and carbohydrates. Once they’ve eaten, the bacteria process the gluten into acid which destroys the teeth enamel. The more sugar and grains, the more acid and the more tooth issues.
How to Take Care of Your Teeth, Here and Now
These results are no doubt good news for advocates of the paleo diet—but really, any diet that is high in protein and vegetables will be good for your teeth, as well as the rest of your body. You can also take care of your teeth by chewing gum that contains xylitol; brushing your teeth regularly and correctly; and having regular dentist check-ups.
Need a dentist office in Apex NC? Call Hansen Dentistry
If you have sensitive, chipped, or stained teeth, be sure to visit our dentist office in Apex NC for a consultation. Our experienced dental team will make sure you have the healthiest smile possible. To schedule an appointment with us, click here.