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Exceptional rates of dental caries in a scandinavian Early Iron Age population—A study of dental pathology at Alvastra, Östergötland, Sweden

Authors

  • Carola Liebe-Harkort

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    1. Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University, S-10691 Stockholm, Sweden
    • Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University, S-10691 Stockholm, Sweden.
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Abstract

The dental status of Early Iron Age agricultural populations in Sweden has not been extensively documented. The aim of this study was to record caries status in human remains from an Early Iron Age burial ground, Smörkullen, at Alvastra, Östergötland, Sweden. The study included 96 adults and 50 subadults and comprised 1794 permanent teeth in the adults and 468 permanent and 221 deciduous teeth in the subadults. The caries frequency was exceptionally high, afflicting most of the adults (92.6%): 46.2% of the teeth examined showed signs of caries disease. Most of the lesions were shallow. However, around 60% of the adult individuals had moderate and severe lesions, which probably had an immediate impact on health. Lesions were most common in the cervical region and this is probably related to dietary patterns where the starchy, sticky food tended to accumulate around the necks of the teeth. Children showed low caries frequency, whereas most juveniles (91.7%) were affected. Most of the teeth with alveolar bone loss showed no signs of cervical or root caries lesions. However, in cases of moderate and severe loss of alveolar bone, seen mostly in the older age group, the frequency of cervical and root lesions was higher. Few initial caries lesions were observed, indicating an aggressive pattern of disease in this population. The lack of gender-related differences suggests that the diet was similar for both sexes, across all age groups. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Ancillary