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Keywords:

  • frailty;
  • selective mortality;
  • oral health;
  • paleodemography

Abstract

The analysis of oral pathologies is routinely a part of bioarcheological and paleopathological investigations. Oral health, while certainly interesting by itself, is also potentially informative about general or systemic health. Numerous studies within modern populations have shown associations between oral pathologies and other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and pulmonary infections. This article addresses the question of how oral health was associated with general health in past populations by examining the relationship between two oral pathologies (periodontal disease and dental caries) and the risk of mortality in a cemetery sample from medieval England. The effects of periodontitis and dental caries on risk of death were assessed using a sample of 190 individuals from the St Mary Graces cemetery, London, dating to ∼AD 1350–1538. The results suggest that the oral pathologies are associated with elevated risks of mortality in the St Mary Graces cemetery such that individuals with periodontitis and dental caries were more likely to die than their peers without such pathologies. The results shown here suggest that these oral pathologies can be used as informative indicators of general health in past populations. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.