Thursday, August 30, 2018

The painful truth about our teeth


 On a long-distance singlehanded voyage towards Britain, life suddenly changed from a struggle with the elements to a far more concentrated battle with my own system thanks to a really painful toothache.
 It was an unusual experience for me and a week or two of regular pain encouraged considerable sympathy for our forefathers.
 How did they manage, I wondered, far from land in those heady days when Britannia ruled the waves?
How would they have coped on James Cook’s circumnavigations and for that matter, what about the teeth of the Vikings on their very risky voyages to our shores.
 Lucky me. Within a day of
sighting Land’s End, I had found a marina at Plymouth, was docked, and in a dental chair with a gum numbing from a local anaesthetic.

Blame modern diets

I learned today from the excellent daily@delanceyplace dot com newsletter that I didn’t need to worry about the forebear’s teeth, at least not of those back in hunter-gatherer times.
An excerpt from the book Evolving Ourselves by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans showed that it's we relative moderns who suffer from teeth problems - thanks to modern diets.
Scientists comparing dental plaque in ancient and modern human teeth found that early humans had healthy mouths that needed no dentistry.
Neanderthal teeth didn’t know cavities, and presumably toothache.
They found that Paleolithic and Mesolithic human skulls were all almost without cavities.
Our diet is to blame. ‘Hunter-gatherers from seven thousand years ago had far more microbial diversity in their mouths than did Stone Age agriculturalists.’
The authors say, ‘With the widespread use of processed sugars, the incidence of cavities exploded. We began to suffer chronic oral disease, something that became most bothersome, and sometimes even deadly, in the pre-antibiotic, pre-brushing, pre-dentist era.
These days we need to do things no self-respecting Neanderthal would have considered: brush our teeth three times a day, floss, drink fluoridated water, fill cavities, and use dentures.

Not for Neanderthals

'These days we need to do things no self-respecting Neanderthal would have considered: brush our teeth three times a day, floss, drink fluoridated water, fill cavities, and use dentures.
‘Average male height during the ninth to eleventh centuries was just below that of modern men,’ the book reveals.
‘Disease, wars, serfdom, and filthy cities changed the morphology of men; by the 1700s, the average Northern European was 2.5 inches shorter than before and did not recover until the twentieth century.’ Care for a chocolate, anyone?
Continues on the blogs for my ocean travel book, Sailing to Purgatory, at SailingToPurgatory.com



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