Despite the fact there was very little dental care in Roman times, experts claim that modern Britons suffer with gum disease more than their ancestors did during the Roman Occupation, which was 1,800 years ago. This theory comes after 300 ancient skulls, some dating back to 200AD, were examined by researchers at Kings College London and only five per cent of them were found to have signs of periodontitis – gum disease. Experts suggest that smoking is to blame for this increase in modern cases of the infection, along with other modern habits.
Professor Francis Hughes, of King’s College London, said that the team were surprised to find that gum disease was far less prevalent in Roman times than it is today, even though people did not brush their teeth or visit the dentist in those days. Professor Hughes explained ‘One of the main reasons for doing the study was the realisation in recent years that a lot of periodontal disease was associated with smoking and to a lesser extend diabetes, and although oral hygiene is obviously important it wasn’t the only factor that contributed to destructive periodontal disease.’
The research, which has been published in the British Dental Journal, also revealed that many people in Roman times suffered with tooth decay and the ancient population showed extensive tooth wear; thought to be caused by a diet made up mainly of coarse cereals and grains. Professor Hughes added that ‘Some tooth decay was seen in many of the population – the main difference of this to modern populations was that this was typically confided to one or two teeth, whereas it is more widespread in the mouth today.’