Dental calculus is the result of mineralized biofilm containing traces of dietary components and oral microbial cells. On this basis, analyses of dental calculus in archeological skeletal material including teeth may reveal information on prehistorical diet and living conditions. Research of this kind has indicated the use of heat treated plant based diet already by Neandertals, and prehistoric human calculus has showed traces of plant and animal food following changes from hunter-gatherer to farming. Isotope studies in dental calculus and environment has also offered arguments associated with human migrations. Moreover, advanced DNA-sequencing methods have made it possible to follow changes of the oral microbiome through the ancient cultural periods. Studies of this kind have shown greater microbial diversity and less bacterial taxa related to dental pathology in hunting/gathering cultures as compared to more recent farming cultures. Supplemented with modern proteomic methods it has also been possible to trace the appearance of bacterial virulence related factors and DNA-sequences with potential antibiotic resistance in dental calculus from times long before the introduction of antibiotics. Dental calculus therefore could be considered a time capsule containing valuable cultural and microbiological information of ancient times.
Tannsten, en dental tidskapsel?
Nor Tannlegeforen Tid, 2018; 118: 422—6