Are Your Teeth as Healthy as a Medieval Peasant’s?
Medieval Europeans generally had good oral health but lacked restorative dental care.
Today we tend to think of the Middle Ages as a dark and backwards time when most people had short lifespans and a very poor quality of life. So you might be surprised to learn that when it came to dental hygiene and oral health, medieval Europeans actually had a better track record than modern Americans in some respects.
The average medieval European peasant actually had very strong teeth and few problems with decay. In fact, based on surveys of archaeological data, only 20 percent of teeth found at medieval sites showed any sign of decay. By contrast, some early 20th century populations showed decay on 90 percent of teeth, and today even with all our modern knowledge half of American teenagers have tooth decay.
The main reason that medieval Europeans did not have high rates of tooth decay has to with their diet. Refined sugar was not readily available during this time. It was used mainly by the wealthy, and even then it was used as a condiment rather than a main ingredient. Without lots of sugars in the diet, oral bacteria had less fuel to create acid and cause tooth decay. Medieval Europeans also had a lot of calcium from dairy products in their diet which helped promote strong teeth.
Medieval people were concerned with keeping their teeth clean and their breath fresh, and historians have found many recipes for pastes, powders, and mouthwashes. While they did not have toothbrushes, they did use linen cloths to rub their teeth clean which may have helped remove some plaque. Ingredients like sage, rosemary, pepper, mint, cinnamon, mace, cloves, and parsley were all used to help breath smell more pleasant.
One dental problem medieval Europeans did have was tooth wear. This occurred because their bread was made from stone-ground grain, which contained a lot of grit. Over time, this caused significant wear on teeth. Some experts suspect this may have had a side benefit in that with the deep crevices in molars worn away, there was less opportunity for decay to take root. However, eventually the abrasion could cause tooth loss.
Medieval Europeans were lucky not to have high rates of tooth decay because restorative dental treatments were extremely poor. The main treatment for every ill was to remove the tooth. This procedure was performed by the local barber without any anesthetic besides a stiff drink.
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Fortunately for you, if you have a toothache or other problem, you have vastly superior options for dental care than a medieval person. Come to California Dental Group for expert care.