Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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When in Rome
28 October 2014

When in Rome

This pretty grin belongs to a 25-year-old Roman woman living in Britain around 350 AD. Cosmetic bleaching had yet to be invented. Dental hygienists were scarce. Despite this, a study of skulls from a Roman-British burial ground found that people in Roman times had far less gum disease than we have today. The researchers found that five per cent of Roman skulls showed signs of moderate to severe gum disease compared with 15 to 30 per cent in today’s population. Located in the English county of Dorset, the burial ground belonged to a community of non-smokers with low levels of diabetes, two of the factors that greatly increase gum disease today. Her teeth were perfectly healthy teeth, but this lady was buried with a copper coin in her mouth, resulting in a slightly discoloured incisor.

Written by Nick Kennedy

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