Oral Health of Ancient Humans

Although modern man is highly advanced in technology, medicine, and the dental arts, the oral health of today is worse than oral health of ancient humans. Although you, as everyone else, would like to believe that modern man has the best oral health in human history, it’s not true. If you’re wondering why, read on.

Modern Oral Health

With all the new dental inventions over the years, all the research, and all the available treatments, how could your prehistoric ancestors have better oral health than you do? They didn’t even have toothbrushes or toothpaste. According to research it wasn’t the oral health practices of ancient man that contributed to their above average oral health, it was their diet. After examining the teeth of 34 prehistoric human skeletons, a group of Australian researchers found that prehistoric humans had stronger, healthier teeth than man today. Over time, as man’s diet changed, the composition of pathogenic bacteria in the human mouth also changed. This makes sense when you think that the Streptococcus mutans bacteria, the bad bacteria in your mouth, feed on the sugars and starches we eat.

The Diet of Prehistoric Man

What was different about the diet of prehistoric man compared to the diet of man today? Our prehistoric ancestors were hunters and gatherers, meaning they only ate what they could kill, or what they could find. This diet included:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Bird eggs
  • Edible plants

You will notice there are no cookies, cakes, candy, ice cream, soda or other sugary drinks, bread, potatoes, rice, and so on.

Modern Man’s Diet

While your prehistoric ancestors weren’t able to store or cook most foods, they ate fresh, raw foods rich in vitamins. They had no salt to season, and no sugar to sweeten. The only sugar they ate was in the form of unrefined carbohydrates. Eventually, our ancestors transitioned to farming and began growing grains and starches. Starches turn into sugars in your body. Finally, modern man learned to refine foods to make them cheaper, convenient, and tastier. Modern man’s diet consists of fats, starches, grains, foods abundant in sugars and sodium, frozen and processed foods, and far less fresh fruits, vegetables, and greens.

Sugars And Carbohydrates

The addition of sugars and carbohydrates upset the balance of oral bacteria in the human mouth. Bad, disease-causing bacteria are attracted to these sugars and starches leftover on your teeth and tongue resulting from your diet. The bacteria metabolize the starches and sugars, replicate, produce more bacteria, and in the process release what is called bacterial plaque.  Prehistoric man had no sugars and starches leftover on his teeth to attract bad bacteria. Therefore he had less plaque which leads to decay, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. Our prehistoric ancestors also ate a highly nutritional diet which probably helped strengthen their teeth. As a result they had healthier teeth and gums. Modern man, on the other hand, has created a state of war in his oral cavity due to his diet. Harmful Streptococcus mutans bacteria are dominant in the modern oral cavity. The sticky bacterial plaque it produces leads to tooth decay and gingivitis. Periodontal disease is on the rise. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), half of Americans from the age of 30 up have the advanced form of periodontal disease called periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss and deterioration of the jaw bone.

What To Do

If you want to keep your mouth as healthy as your prehistoric ancestors you can begin with your diet. Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, and greens, and less processed foods. Perform proper oral health care daily including brushing for two minutes twice a day, brushing your tongue along with your teeth, flossing once a day, and rinsing with an anti-bacterial mouthwash.

You don’t have to worry about the Oral Health of Ancient Humans, but you may want to have us check you

Aside from providing expert general and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is a former Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from Chicago and all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.