Dental Discoveries: How Teeth Shed Light on Ancient Lives

September 8, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — famdentalcampbell @ 8:41 pm
A mother and daughter looking at a display case of old teeth in a museum

If you’ve ever walked the halls of a museum, staring at the skeletons of ancient beasts and men, you might start to wonder how we know anything about how they lived. The truth is that many of the secrets of the past were revealed through archeologists studying the teeth of your ancestors.

But what kinds of stories can these discoveries tell? How will the present be remembered in the future through tiny bones? If you’re curious to find these answers, continue reading.

How Do Archeologists Learn Facts from Bones?

Dental archaeology is a branch of bioarcheology and osteoarcheology. These sciences help to reveal the past of the world by studying teeth found during archaeological digs. While they may be pieces of old bone to you, to a dental archeologist it’s a biological diary.

By studying marks on the teeth of ancient people, they can determine what was primarily eaten at the time of death. Through other evidence, these conclusions lead to larger narratives.

For instance, the presence of cavities usually coincides with the beginning of farming in a society. Archeologists believe this is due to the introduction of agricultural crops into the diet.

What Can Archeologists Learn from Ancient Teeth?

Archeologists who study teeth have an extensive database of established history at their fingertips. With this catalogue, they can begin to piece together new information.

  • The age of an individual is one of the simplest aspects an archeologist can find. By studying the degree of wear and decay on a tooth, a stage of life from toddler to adult can be determined.
  • By studying a large selection of ancient people and their fossils, archeologists have begun to get a clearer picture of how they migrated from one area to another. Ancient DNA and study of wear tell how groups of people lived, and how they might have travelled.
  • Ancient dental techniques have been discovered from many cultures all over the world dating back more than 4000 years! While these practices weren’t as sophisticated as what we use today, the records still show a remarkable understanding of dental practice.

How Is Dental Archeology Relevant Today?

A new study conducted by the University of Nottingham discovered that ancient teeth can preserve antibodies for hundreds of years. Antibodies are produced by the immune system as a preemptive protection against further infection.

With this discovery, archeologists could learn a lot about the history of disease and where various strains of bacteria or viruses came from by looking at the DNA in ancient teeth.

Hundreds of years from now, an archeologist may even discover the remains of people from this era and discover how COVID-19 spread all over the world.

Discoveries made about teeth from the past can increase knowledge of modern problems, leading to new and improved dental technology. Ultimately, dental archeology is a window into the past to prepare for the future.

About the Practice

Dr. Emily Allen and Dr. Brandon Jewell are the core of Family Dental Associates of Spring Hill. Their combined expertise, commitment to patient care, and advanced dental techniques ensure that your oral health is in the best possible hands. Both are dedicated to creating a welcoming environment where you and your family can receive top-quality dental care. To schedule an appointment, call (615) 302-1414 or visit the website to explore their services.

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