Bacteria in 1,000 Year Old Plaque Same As Today

File this one under – yuck! Researchers looked at 1,000 year old dental plaque and found the bacteria it harbored was essentially the same as modern day oral bacteria!

Dr. Christina Warinner from the department of anthropology of the University of Oklahoma wanted to build a detailed picture of people from the Medieval period in Germany by extracting DNA from samples of dental calculus. People back then didn’t go for regular dental hygiene visits so there was enough calculus to do the DNA tests because dental calculus has a thousand times more DNA than bone. The researcher started this search because she needed more information on the health and dietary habits of those Medieval people. Now she has become a dental detective and wants to know why the disease causing bacteria found in these old remains continues to cause inflammatory periodontal disease in humans today.

“What makes dental calculus so unique is that it acts both as a long-term reservoir of the oral microbiome and as a trap for dietary and environmental debris,” Warriner said. “This allows us to investigate health and disease, as well as reconstruct aspects of an individual’s life history and activities. Never before have we been able to retrieve so much information from one small sample.”

If it has been a while since your last dental hygiene visit, you probably have some of these “small samples” of dental calculus on your teeth as well. While you may tell yourself that preserving this treasure trove of DNA information will help some future anthropologist — your smile, and your entire body, will be healthier if you call to schedule a cleaning! Dental calculus can’t be removed at home by brushing or flossing and, as this research has shown, it is full of disease causing bacteria.

Please contact Asheville preventative dentist Dr. John Highsmith today at 828-627-9282.

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Posted in: Oral Health, Periodontal Disease

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