Written by Dana Trentini, May 26, 2020

1000-year-old teeth and chronic disease

32 scientists from around the world published a ground-breaking study in the journal Nature Genetics in 2014. Four adult human skeletons were discovered at a monastery in Dalheim, Germany. It is estimated that they lived in the Middle Ages (c. 950 to 1200 AD).

The first analysis of ancient oral microbiome

Dental plaque (you know the stuff that your dentist scrapes off your teeth every visit) is a sticky, slippery mass of microorganisms that grow together in a community known as a biofilm on tooth surfaces.

1000-year-old teeth and chronic disease

Ridding your teeth of dental plaque is a never-ending battle because food, saliva and fluids in the mouth make the perfect environment for pathogens to grow. And eventually those pathogens can cause tooth decay and gum disease.

If you think you have dental plaque, imagine the teeth of people from the Middle Ages!

According to this international team of researchers, “Calcified dental plaque (dental calculus) preserves for millenia and entraps biomolecules from all domains of life and viruses.” They had discovered a “microbial Pompeii”  like a time capsule preserved on the teeth of these skeletons. It is a unique snapshot of the oral microbiome in a lost world.

Dental plaque & serious diseases

1000 year old teeth and chronic disease

“Unlike other human microbiomes, the oral microbiome will cause disease in a majority of people during their lifetime,” explained the researchers.

DNA sequencing produced evidence of pathogens, mainly bacterial,, including opportunistic pathogens that are well-known today to play a role in serious diseases.

  • Three common bacteria associated with periodontal disease  (T. forsythia, P. gingivalis and T. denticola)
  • Bacteria associated with dental infections and tooth decay (A. odontolyticus and S. mutans)
  • Several bacteria that contribute to  cardiovascular disease risk (A. actinomycetemcomitans, S. mutans and S. mitis)
  • Opportunistic pathogens in upper and lower respiratory illnesses (S. pneumoniae, S. pyogenes, and Haemophilus influenzae)

Salt, yup salt, for oral hygiene

It goes without saying that good oral hygiene practices are important for overall good health. If you’ve ignored your dental hygienist’s reminders to floss more, you’re not alone. Only 31.5 percent of American adults told CDC researchers they flossed each day in the last week.

1000 year old teeth and chronic disease

Maybe those medieval teeth from that monastery study will be the thing that inspires you to brush and floss more. If that wasn’t enough then this 2019 study might do the trick. Periodontal pathogens and their metabolic by-products are associated with systemic diseases including cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal and colorectal cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory diseases, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

What if you are doing everything right but the tartar keeps building up, your teeth are decaying, your gums are receding, your teeth are loosening?

Here is a fascinating video by holistic dentist Dr. Carey O’Rielly on how something as simple as salt can kill bacteria in the mouth. Here are some ideas. Add salt to your toothbrush when brushing, add salt to your water flosser, create a salt and water paste that you place along the gum line for a certain amount of time, gargle with salt water, and even add salt to cleansers for dentures and orthodontic retainers.

1000-Year-Old Teeth and Chronic Disease

Dana Trentini

Dana Trentini

One day my body suddenly broke from hypothyroidism. I clawed my way back to health by devouring the scientific literature. You see, I was once the team leader of an Ivy League professor’s research team with no clue then that those skills would one day save my life and that my site Hypothyroid Mom would spread across the internet like lightening. And then came the day to share all my other precious health nuggets and Yes! Healthier was born.

Please help spread the word (I appreciate every share!)

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