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Romans had healthier gums than modern Britons

24 October 2014

Romans had healthier gums than modern Britons

The Roman-British population had far less gum disease than we have today, according to a study of skulls at the Natural History Museum led by a King’s College London periodontist.

The study, published in the British Dental Journal, found that five per cent of the 303 skulls showed signs of moderate to severe hum disease, compares to today’s population of which around 15-30 per cent of adults have chronic progressive periodontitis.

This was a non-smoking population and likely to have had very low levels of diabetes mellitus, two factors that are known to greatly increase the risk of gum disease in modern populations. However, the skulls showed signs of infections and abscesses, and half had caries. They also showed extensive tooth wear from a young age.

Professor Francis Hughes from the Dental Institute at King’s College London and lead author of the study said: “We were very struck by the finding that sever gum disease appeared to be much less common in the Roman British population than in modern humans, despite the fact that they did not use toothbrushes or visit dentists as we do today. Gum disease has been found in our ancestors, including in mummified remains in Egypt, and was alluded to in writings by the Babylonians, Assyrians and Sumerians as well as the early Chinese.” 

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