A Viking’s Tooth

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A new archaeological study on Viking teeth showed that tooth decay was a prevalent problem in the Middle Ages, Cosmos Magazine reported.

Researchers from Sweden’s University of Gothenburg studied nearly 3,300 Viking teeth found at the oldest known ruins of a Christian church and cemetery located near the south-central town of Skara.

Out of the 171 individuals studied, nearly half of them had no dental decay, while 49 percent had some form of decay. Four percent of individuals had an infection.

What piqued the researchers’ interest, however, was evidence of tooth filing: One male had filed his teeth, a practice that was unknown among Vikings until now – although some scholars speculate it was a marker of identity.

The findings provide a “unique understanding of life and death in this early Christian Viking community and indicated that it was common to suffer from dental caries (cavities), tooth loss, infections of dental origin and tooth pain,” the team writes in their paper.

The study also showed that the average age of death was 35 years old, adding that the diet of the medieval community most likely included beef, fish, bread and various vegetables, such as leeks and mushrooms.

The ancient population also most likely drank beer and mead.

The authors suggested that oral hygiene measures – except for toothpicking – were probably non-existent.

While humanity has significantly advanced in dental care, the rates of tooth decay in today’s societies appear broadly similar, although the causes might differ.

The World Health Organization says nearly half of the world’s population suffers from dental caries, with the rise in sugar consumption believed to be the main cause of the problem.

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