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Ancient Teeth Bacteria Gave Hints About Dental Health Evolution

teeth bacteriaThe fact that modern foods and food products affect our dental health to a great extent is known. In contrast to ancient people who were consuming mostly hard unprocessed foods and enjoying the benefits of strong jaw bones, we mainly choose various soft processed options. That is why our teeth go less and less strong, most of modern people have underdeveloped wisdom teeth and shrunk jaw bone structure. Since the times of the Stone Age, our diet has undergone tremendous changes which definitely had a direct impact on our dental health. Centuries ago, humans started using fire which allowed receiving softer and more delicious foods. During the last century, food industry started producing totally new foods and presenting new tastes, making people take much more pleasure from eating, but at the same time suffer from destructive effects of unhealthy foods rich in saturated fats, sugars, and other substances. As a result, for the last decades  public dental and overall health has been going worse and worse.

In order to find out more evidence and study the changes in our dental structures, oral bacteria and dental health, an international team of dental care specialists led by the scientists from University of Adelaide’s Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), collected the data and analyzed the genetic records of ancient human skulls picked from the discovered ancient people skeletons.¬† According to the report of the Australian dental care specialists written after working in cooperation with British dental anthropology scientists from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge and the Department of Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen, the research team managed to analyze the data related to the changes that the humanity went through for over the period of time exceeding 7,500 years. It was found out that modern people suffer from numerous important dental health consequences caused by our nutrition changes as a result of the Industrial Revolution and the newest farming technologies.

The scientists extracted genetic materials from dental plaque of 34 ancient human skeletons found recently by archaeologists of Northern Europe. This was a great opportunity to trace the changes in oral bacteria and dental health of humans, from ancient people of the Medieval epochs to the people of modern times. It was estimated by the archaeologists that the skeletons could possibly belong to a group of hunter-gatherers and the first farmers living in the epochs of the Bronze Age and later. It turned out that ancient people did not have that many dental bacteria as we do, meaning that they did not suffer from that great number of dental diseases and problems as modern people do. “Oral bacteria in modern man are markedly less diverse than historic populations and this is thought to contribute to chronic oral and other disease in post-industrial lifestyles,” Professor Alan Cooper, the study leader, commented on the findings of his research group which were published earlier this month in the journal Nature Genetic.

“The composition of oral bacteria changed markedly with the introduction of farming, and again around 150 years ago. With the introduction of processed sugar and flour in the Industrial Revolution, we can see a dramatically decreased diversity in our oral bacteria, allowing domination by caries-causing strains. The modern mouth basically exists in a permanent disease state,” the scientist said. He underlined that using DNA samples was the only approach to analyze ancient oral bacteria. This interesting research which started about 17 years ago and was completed only the last year, and it was the first successful attempt to recognize the species of ancient teeth bacteria. It is reported that the scientific team is now looking for new opportunities to obtain some genetic material and analyze dental bacteria of the humans from the Neanderthal epoch. For their tests and observations, Adelaide researchers are using new amazing laboratory facilities which were opened only in 2007 and offered new opportunities as to decontamination and authentication of scientific materials.


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