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A history of the Crusades, as told by crusaders' DNA (phys.org)
50 points by davesailer on June 26, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 13 comments

Not a teeth missing?! The crusaders must have had excellent dental coverage!

But seriously, anyone who knows how can they have a full mouth of teeth at that era can explain?

Years back I recall reading an article about a skeleton which was found in the SF bay area (I think), and the difficulty of finding out who it was. They knew it was a woman and her approximate age, but because she had perfect teeth, dental records would be of no use. On the other hand, the fact that she had perfect teeth was itself a clue.

Skipping to the end of the story, she was a "mail order bride" from southeast asia; her husband got tired of her, killed her, and buried her in a remote spot. She had perfect teeth because she grew up eating a non-western diet with no sugar/coke/etc, probably mostly vegetables, rice, and fish.

Also, Southeast Asia probably means drinking green tea, which equals fluoride, thus good for teeth (up to a point).

Relatedly, I remember hearing of archaeologists finding skulls of "cave men" (can't remember the time or place) with perfect teeth and signs of tooth picks (grooves around the gum line). The implication was that cultural knowledge (or perhaps just personal habits) had solved bad dental hygiene at times throughout history--and it was repeatedly lost and found again. Could have also been happenstance with natural fluoride in the water (how the effect was discovered, I believe), or non-intentional as with the green tea.

If you don't brush or floss, your teeth end up completely coated in a layer of plaque. I think I once read somewhere that, due to low-sugar diet everyone else is talking about, the plaque on people's teeth "back in the day" was non-corrosive, and probably pretty good protection.

You'd think the plaque would still be present on the skeletons, but who knows. This is just speculation to begin with...

I'm lucky enough not have the bacteria that cause cavities - I'm awful with going to the dentist, but every time I do I walk out without any cavities. However, I do walk out with a stern warning about the dangers of plaque - how it's constant inflammation that causes tooth decay, gum disease, and a multitude of systemic problems - having teeth covered in plaque seems to be a problem in and of itself.

Again, this is drawn mostly from hazy memories of articles previously read, but my understanding was that plaque on the teeth of people who don't eat a diet high in sugars and refined carbs doesn't cause inflammation, ie it's fairly neutral on the teeth and gums. I'm not trying to start a pseudo-science upswell here, though, so maybe ignore this for the time being.

Low carb diet and no sugar

No sugar, sure. But wouldn't the diet of common medieval soldiers have be primarily grain based?

Maybe, it depends which crusade I think, and the amount of fiber left in their grain products was much higher. That makes a difference in the adhesive characteristics of the starch to the mouth. Also the insulin response, water retention, and gut health but that is a different topic though linked to gum health for sure.

In pre-modern times, a predominantly grain diet led to tooth decay not only because of starch sticking to the mouth, but also because all grain was stone-milled and the process left tiny fragments of stone in the grain that were abrasive on teeth.

They died young.

They were burned and buried. I doubt they were old.

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