Dental erosion is one of the most common dental problems in the world today. Carbonated drinks, fruit juices, wine, and other acidic foods and beverages are often blamed, although perhaps surprisingly, the way we clean our teeth also plays a role. All this makes it sound like a fairly modern problem. But research shows that humans have been suffering from dental erosion for millions of years.
My colleagues and I discovered tooth lesions that are very similar to those of the modern erosion caused by the two 2.5-meter-long anterior teeth of the ancestors that we have already extirpated. This adds to the surprising evidence of dental problems that prehistoric humans and their predecessors have in ourselves, even though our diets are very different.
Dental erosion affects all tooth tissues and usually leaves shallow, shiny lesions on the enamel and root surfaces. If you brush your teeth too hard, you may weaken the teeth. Over time, acidic foods and drinks form deep holes called NCCL.
We found this lesion in the fossilized teeth of the ancestral species of South Africa, the human ancestral species. Given the size and location of the lesion, this person may have toothache or sensitivity. So why is the tooth problem of this prehistoric human tooth no different from the dental problem caused by drinking a lot of carbonated drinks today?
The answer may return to another unlikely parallel. Today’s erosive wear is also often associated with aggressive brushing. Antarctic scorpion Africa may suffer similar tooth wear due to eating tough fiber foods. For the formation of lesions, they still need a diet of high-acid foods. This may not be carbonated drinks but citrus fruits and acidic vegetables. For example, tubers (potatoes, etc.) are difficult to eat and some may be surprisingly acidic, so they may be the cause of the lesions.
Dental erosion in fossil records is very rare, although this may be because researchers have not yet thought of finding evidence for it. But another type of problem is that dental caries or cavities are more common in fossilized teeth.
Voids are the most common cause of toothache today and are caused by starchy or sugary foods and beverages (including cereals). They are often regarded as a relatively modern issue, related to agricultural inventions that introduce large amounts of carbohydrates and recently refined sugars into our diet.
However, recent research shows that this is not the case. In fact, dental holes are now found in tooth fossils of almost all prehistoric human species studied. They may be caused by eating certain fruits and plants and honey. These lesions are usually severe, such as the holes found in the teeth of newly discovered species Homo naledi. In fact, these cavities are deep and may take several years to form, almost certainly causing severe toothache.
Another eye-catching type of dental wear is also common in fossil records. Once again, we can guess how and why it was created by looking at the teeth of people who are alive today. This process is called tooth abrasion due to repeated rubbing or fixing of hard objects to the teeth. It may come from biting the nails, sucking the tube or holding the needle between teeth. These activities usually take years to form distinct grooves and grooves, so when we find such holes in tooth fossils, they provide fascinating insights into behavior and culture.
The best example of this type of prehistoric tooth wear is the “toothpick groove”, which is believed to be caused by repeated objects placed in the mouth, usually in the gap between the posterior teeth. The presence of microscopic scratches around these grooves indicates that they are examples of prehistoric dental hygiene in which individuals have used sticks or other utensils for removing food. Some of these grooves are located on the same teeth as other tooth problems, indicating that they may also be evidence that people are trying to relieve toothache.
These lesions are found in a wide variety of humans, including prehistoric humans and Neanderthals, but only in the species most closely related to us, not our old ancestors. This may mean that this type of tooth wear is the result of more complex behavior of the larger species in the brain. But it is more likely to be the result of different diets and cultural habits.
What we do know is that the complex and serious dental issues that we often associate with the modern diet of processed foods and refined sugar actually existed long ago in our ancestors, albeit less commonly. Further research may show that lesions are more common than our ancestors previously thought, and will eventually provide more information on the diet and cultural practices of our fossil relatives in the distance.