21 July 2024
Ancient Teeth Diet Impact: Oral Microbiome Changes Revealed

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The Impact of Ancient Teeth on Understanding Diet Changes

In a groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at Trinity College Dublin, genetic secrets from 4,000-year-old teeth have shed light on the impact of changing human diets over the centuries. The teeth, remarkably preserved and found in an Irish limestone cave, belonged to the same male individual and provided valuable insights into the oral health and microbiomes of ancient populations.

Oral Microenvironment Changes Over Time

Through genetic analyses of the microbiomes extracted from the ancient teeth, researchers uncovered significant changes in the oral microenvironment from the Bronze Age to the present day. The study, published in Molecular Biology and Evolution and carried out in collaboration with archaeologists from the Atlantic Technological University and University of Edinburgh, identified key bacteria associated with gum disease and provided the first high-quality ancient genome of Streptococcus mutans, a major contributor to tooth decay.

Ancient Teeth and the Evolution of Oral Health

The findings from the study highlighted the rarity of S. mutans in ancient oral microbiomes, possibly due to its acid-producing nature that hinders DNA preservation and fossilization of plaque. The introduction of cereal agriculture thousands of years ago led to an increase in dental cavities, but the most dramatic surge occurred in the past few hundred years with the widespread consumption of sugary foods. The sampled teeth, part of a larger skeletal assemblage from Killuragh Cave, revealed advanced dental decay in other teeth but lacked visible cavities. However, an abundance of S. mutans DNA in one tooth indicated a high risk of cavities for the individual.

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Modern Diet and Oral Microbiome Diversity

The study also supported the “disappearing microbiome” hypothesis, suggesting that modern microbiomes are less diverse compared to those of our ancestors. The researchers found highly divergent strains of Tannerella forsythia, a bacteria linked to gum disease, in the Bronze Age teeth. The evolution of disease-causing bacteria like T. forsythia and S. mutans has been influenced by recent cultural transitions, particularly during the industrial era with increased sugar consumption. While modern S. mutans populations remain diverse, recent lineage expansions and genetic changes related to pathogenicity have been observed, highlighting the impact of diet on oral health evolution.

The analysis of ancient teeth provides a window into the past, offering valuable insights into how human diets have evolved and impacted oral health over millennia. By studying the genetic secrets preserved in ancient microbiomes, researchers can better understand the complex interplay between diet, oral microbiota, and disease development, ultimately informing modern approaches to oral health and diet management.

Links to additional Resources:

1. www.tcd.ie 2. www.nature.com 3. www.sciencemag.org

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Ancient teeth, Oral microbiome, Dental decay

Teeth (2007 film)
Teeth is a 2007 American comedy horror film written and directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein. The film stars Jess Weixler and was produced by Lichtenstein on a budget of $2 million. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2007, and received a limited release in the United States...
Read more: Teeth (2007 film)

Human microbiome
The human microbiome is the aggregate of all microbiota that reside on or within human tissues and biofluids along with the corresponding anatomical sites in which they reside, including the skin, mammary glands, seminal fluid, uterus, ovarian follicles, lung, saliva, oral mucosa, conjunctiva, biliary tract, and gastrointestinal tract. Types of...
Read more: Human microbiome

Tooth decay
Tooth decay, also known as cavities or caries, is the breakdown of teeth due to acids produced by bacteria. The cavities may be a number of different colors from yellow to black. Symptoms may include pain and difficulty with eating. Complications may include inflammation of the tissue around the tooth,...
Read more: Tooth decay

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