By Kelsi Matylewicz / Benco Dental Social Media Intern
One factor that did not contribute to the fall of the Roman Empire: gum disease.
At least that’s what we might infer from a study of skulls at the Natural History Museum led by a King’s College London periodontist. Experts say the Roman-British population appears to have had far less gum disease than we have today.
Modern habits like smoking, and health issues like diabetes can be damaging to oral health, according to further evidence.
The study, published in the British Dental Journal, examined 303 skulls from a Romano-British burial ground in Poundbury, Dorset for evidence of dental disease. Only 5% of the skulls showed signs of moderate to severe gum disease, compared to today’s population of which around 15-30% of adults have chronic periodontitis.
However many of the Roman skulls showed signs of infections and abscesses, and half had tooth decay.
Professor Francis Hughes from the Dental Institute at King’s College London and lead author of the study said at kcl.ac.uk: “We were very struck by the finding that severe gum disease appeared to be much less common in the Roman British population than in modern humans, despite the fact that they did not use toothbrushes or visit dentists as we do today.”
Theya Molleson, co-author of the study from the Natural History Museum said: “This study shows a major deterioration in oral health between Roman times and modern England. By underlining the probable role of smoking, especially in determining the susceptibility to progressive periodontitis in modern populations, there is a real sign that the disease can be avoided.”