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Exceptional Rates of Dental Caries in a Scandinavian Early Iron Age Population - A Study of Dental Pathology at Alvastra, Östergötland, Sweden
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory.
2012 (English)In: International journal of osteoarchaeology, ISSN 1047-482X, E-ISSN 1099-1212, Vol. 22, no 2, 168-184 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The dental status of Early Iron Age agricultural populations in Sweden has not been extensively documented. The aim of this study was to record caries status in human remains from an Early Iron Age burial ground, Smorkullen, at Alvastra, Ostergotland, Sweden. The study included 96 adults and 50 subadults and comprised 1794 permanent teeth in the adults and 468 permanent and 221 deciduous teeth in the subadults. The caries frequency was exceptionally high, afflicting most of the adults (92.6%): 46.2% of the teeth examined showed signs of caries disease. Most of the lesions were shallow. However, around 60% of the adult individuals had moderate and severe lesions, which probably had an immediate impact on health. Lesions were most common in the cervical region and this is probably related to dietary patterns where the starchy, sticky food tended to accumulate around the necks of the teeth. Children showed low caries frequency, whereas most juveniles (91.7%) were affected. Most of the teeth with alveolar bone loss showed no signs of cervical or root caries lesions. However, in cases of moderate and severe loss of alveolar bone, seen mostly in the older age group, the frequency of cervical and root lesions was higher. Few initial caries lesions were observed, indicating an aggressive pattern of disease in this population. The lack of gender-related differences suggests that the diet was similar for both sexes, across all age groups.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 22, no 2, 168-184 p.
Keyword [en]
cervical caries, initial lesions, cavitated lesions, calculus, root exposure, ante mortem tooth loss
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Osteoarchaeology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-40146DOI: 10.1002/oa.1194ISI: 000302618600005OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-40146DiVA: diva2:322711
Note

1

Available from: 2010-02-22 Created: 2010-02-22 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Oral Disease and Health Patterns: Dental and Cranial Paleopathology of the Early Iron Age Population at Smörkullen in Alvastra, Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Oral Disease and Health Patterns: Dental and Cranial Paleopathology of the Early Iron Age Population at Smörkullen in Alvastra, Sweden
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In skeletal remains of ancient populations, evidence of dental and craniofacial pathology is often well preserved in the form of lesions on the teeth or bones. Meticulous, detailed recording of these lesions provides baseline data on which a realistic assessment can be made of the probable impact of dental diseases and its sequelae on health of these earlier populations.

In the present thesis, dental and cranial pathology were recorded in the remains of an Iron Age population, with special reference to the possible impact of such conditions on general health and well-being. The skeletal remains had been excavated early last century from the burial ground Smörkullen, Alvastra, Östergötland, in Eastern Central Sweden: osteological analyses showed that the material comprised the remains of 65 subadult individuals and 104 adult individuals of both sexes. The dental status of most of the adult individuals was poor. Calculus, periodontitis, moderate and severe carious lesions and periapical infections were recorded. In contrast, subadult showed less evidence of dental disease. The results indicate that the perception of health in adults was probably negatively affected by their poor oral status. The dental status of subadults, on the other hand, was unlikely to have had a negative impact on their general well-being. A sex difference was observed in the material, males tending to more ongoing disease than females. Overall, the frequencies of both dental and cranial pathologies increased with age.

Caries frequency in the material was noticeable higher than in numerous other studies in Scandinavian populations. Although the high caries rates at Smörkullen may be attributable to a diet rich in carbohydrates, the result may to some extent have been influenced by observer experience. Caries rates in other populations are likely to be under-estimated in comparison with Smörkullen. However, methodological factors alone cannot not explain all the observed differences.

The recording of cranial pathologies disclosed malnutrition and upper respiratory problems in all age groups in the Smörkullen material. This most certainly affected their well-being. In some cases the pathology observed was directly associated with life-threatening conditions. Analyses of combinations of pathologies suggest that a combination of linear enamel hypoplasias and cribra orbitalia, mainly observed in those who died before the age of fifteen, may have been related to a lower probability of survival. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies Stockholm University, 2010. 96 p.
Series
Theses and papers in osteoarchaeology, ISSN 1652-4098 ; 6
Keyword
Smörkullen, Alvastra, Sweden, Early Iron Age, dental disease, cranial lesion, caries diagnostics, pathways of infections, dietary patterns, environment, health
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Osteoarchaeology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-37301 (URN)978-91-7447-011-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-03-26, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
At the time of doctoral defence the following publications were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: manuscript. Paper 2: manuscript. Paper 3: manuscript.Available from: 2010-03-04 Created: 2010-02-22 Last updated: 2010-12-09Bibliographically approved

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