Scientists have been looking into the causes of tooth decay and have made some pretty interesting discoveries. There is evidence to believe that throughout time, man’s diet has been altered so drastically from our ancestors’ that we are actually contributing to our own tooth decay.
The research comes out of the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute from Cambridge in England. These three universities worked together to discover this new phenomenon in dental medicine.
The researchers analyzed the DNA of calcified bacteria that has settled on human teeth over the course of the last 7,500 years. They concluded that the oral bacteria in human mouths is less now than it was thousands of years ago, and there has been a steady decline over time. More specifically, it was discovered that the bacteria in our mouths have become less diverse over time, meaning that there is a smaller variety of bacteria now than there was 7,500 years ago.
Bacteria are the most important part of the processing of our foods. The bacteria in our mouths help break down the food while it is in our mouths. The leader of the study, professor Alan Cooper of the ACAD shed some light on the consequences of the diminishing bacteria. “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.”
One of the most interesting findings of this study was that the drop in bacteria hasn’t always been gradual, and that the changes have been correlated mostly with major shifts in how food is produced. The first major shift was seen when humans altered our diets from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one of agriculture and farming. The next major shift occurred at the height of the industrial revolution, when people began processing food in factories for mass consumption.
The researchers believe that the reason this correlates to more habitual disease in modern humans is due to the fact that our current diets allow mostly the bacteria that cause cavities to grow and flourish, and fewer of the bacteria that fight off cavities. Professor Cooper went on to say that “the modern mouth basically exists in a permanent disease state.”
“Being able to track them through time has huge implications for understanding the origins and history of human health – making the archaeological record extremely relevant and important to modern-day medics and geneticists,” said Professor Keith Dobney of the University of Aberdeen, one of the lead researchers on this project.
These researchers will be continuing their work to expand their research to other geographic locations. They will also be extending the timeline to look at human artifacts from further in the past, including some neanderthal teeth. It is only a matter of time before the information may be used to explain chronic oral disease and help dentists like Dr. James Wells to treat such conditions. In the meantime, Dr. Wells has the top of the line in oral disease care available to all of his patients. If you are interested in treatment at South Charlotte Dentistry, please don’t hesitate to contact us!