Caveman Plaque

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Caveman Plaque

Scientific break-throughs have allowed scientists to analyze plaque on Neanderthal man’s teeth!  They have found that there are striking differences in their diets, depending on where they lived.  The findings in the current issue of the Nature journal mark the first and oldest dental plaque to be genetically analyzed.  Caveman samples were studied from two different areas ranging from 36,000 to 48,000 years ago.

   This newest research changes the perception of our “caveman ancestors” from  grunting club-bearing beasts to individuals who are capable, intelligent, and friendly.

 Understanding the Neanderthal diet means studying their teeth, specifically the layers of hardened plaque called calculus.  This hardened grunge contains DNA particles of food and microbes that occupied ancient man’s mouth.  The calculus that hardens on our teeth actually locks in and preserves the bacteria in our mouth.  The caveman studied from the Belgian area (36,000 years ago) shows that they ate mostly the meat of rhinoceros and wild sheep.  Whereas, the caveman from Spain (48,000 years ago) ate mushrooms, pine nuts and moss, and no meat!  All this has come to light from being able to study our distant ancestors calcified plaque.  It appears that eating meat was relatively new to these cavemen!

 Also found in this hardened plaque was evidence that the Spanish caveman suffered from a stomach bug and a dental abscess.  Even more interesting is that there were signs that ancient man may have self-medicated.  The fossilized calculus showed signs of them using poplar as a form of aspirin, and a natural antibiotic mold found on some plants.  It can only be imagined that they just knew they felt better when eating these items.

 One of the most fascinating discoveries is that the oldest microbe newly discovered contains the same bacteria prevalent in today’s gum disease.  And this microbe dates back 120,000 years ago!  How did this microbe pass from ancient caveman to our human ancestors?  One theory is that neaderthal and humans were friendlier than originally thought.  They may have exchanged food or kisses, which would explain how this was passed between these two ancient peoples.  What we can learn from this is that the plaque we carry on our teeth today may be part of our history of tomorrow.

 Just a thought to take with you:  Our office has patients we see from the age of 2 up to 105!  We are accepting new patients, and would love to meet you.

 Your Gentle Dentists,

 Dr. Simmons  947-3163




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