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Tooth Plaque Can Provide Insights Into Ancient Societies

Plaque – Yuk, awful stuff and harmful to your health.

Plaque is that nasty stuff that dental hygienists scrape away from teeth. It develops when foods containing sugary or starchy foods are not properly removed from the teeth. Mouth bacterias thrive on these types of foods producing an acid that over time destroys the tooth enamel and creates tooth decay.

But plaque can also be super nasty by diving deep into the tooth roots and breaking down the bone underneath the teeth.

The solution, as we all know, is to brush your teeth twice a day, floss between teeth and visit your oral hygienist at least every 6 months. (Ed Note: Denture patients shouldn't neglect their annual visits to the denturists either.)

Eating a balanced diet and limiting the amount of sugary and starchy foods in favour of raw veggies is also recommended. Did you know that celery which not only helps remove any excess foods but generate saliva that helps to neutralize the acids caused by plaque?

Recently though, plaque saved the day for an international team of researchers that found new evidence suggesting that our prehistoric ancestors held in-depth knowledge about plantology long before they become agricultural specialists.

The Science Daily article – Tooth plaque provides unique insights into our prehistoric ancestor’s diet explained:

“By extracting chemical compounds and microfossils from dental calculus (calcified dental plaque) from ancient teeth … researchers were able to provide an entirely new perspective on our ancestors' diets. Their research suggests that purple nut sedge (Cyperus rotundus) -- today regarded as a nuisance weed -- formed an important part of the prehistoric diet.”

Lead author for the research team, Dr. Karen Hardy an international scholar with degrees from Spain and US continued:  

…Purple nut sedge is today considered to be a scourge in tropical and sub-tropical regions and has been called the world's most expensive weed due to the difficulties and high costs of eradication from agricultural areas. By extracting material from samples of ancient dental calculus we have found that rather than being a nuisance in the past, its value as a food, and possibly its abundant medicinal qualities were known. More recently, it was also used by the ancient Egyptians as perfume and as medicine.”

According to the article, by delving into the history of the plant, the researchers found that purple nut sedge had the “ability to inhibit Streptococcus mutans, a bacterium which contributes to tooth decay, may have contributed to the unexpectedly low level of cavities found in the agricultural population.”

There you go, we can add eating purple nut sedge as a way to help prevent plaque and cavities.

The research was carried out at Al Khiday, a pre-historic site on the White Nile in Central Sudan. Al Khiday is a complex of five archaeological sites. One of those sites was found to be a burial ground from the pre-Mesolithic, Neolithic and Later Meroitic eras, providing the researchers with a long-term perspective on the material recovered.

All this learned, just from plaque.

Of course since dentures are fabricated of acrylic, they don’t suffer from plaque but that doesn’t mean that denture wearers are immune to periodontal disease. Maintaining good oral care habits including keeping your dentures clean, brushing your gums and tongue and using an antiseptic rinse go along way to keeping your mouth healthy and disease free.

 ~ Allan

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