WTF Fun Fact 13658 – Viking Dentistry

You probably haven’t pondered Viking dentistry. However, a recent study at the University of Gothenburg revealed that Viking dental practices were surprisingly advanced.

The study examined 3,293 teeth from 171 individuals in Varnhem, Sweden, dating back to the Viking Age. This region is renowned for well-preserved skeletal remains, offering a unique glimpse into ancient dental health.

Caries and Tooth Loss in Viking Dentistry

The findings, published in PLOS ONE, show a widespread occurrence of dental issues among the Vikings. About 49% of the population had one or more caries lesions, with 13% of adult teeth affected, often at the roots. Interestingly, children’s milk teeth were free from caries. Adults frequently experienced tooth loss, averaging a 6% loss over their lifetimes, excluding wisdom teeth.

These results suggest that tooth infections and aches were common, likely impacting daily life.

The Vikings weren’t just suffering in silence; they actively attempted dental care. Evidence of toothpick use, front teeth filing, and even treatment for infected teeth were found. Molars showed filed holes from the crown to the pulp, probably to relieve toothache caused by infection.

This method mirrors modern dental treatments, where drilling into infected teeth relieves pressure. It’s unclear whether Vikings conducted these procedures themselves or sought help.

Cultural Significance of Teeth

Filed front teeth, found predominantly in males, may have served as identity markers. This practice indicates that teeth held significant cultural importance in Viking society. The study suggests that Viking Age dentistry might have been more sophisticated than previously thought, with a better understanding of oral health than assumed.

This study offers more than just a medical perspective; it sheds light on the cultural aspects of Viking life. The care and attention given to teeth, from practical health to aesthetic modifications, reflect a society that valued oral health and appearance.

Such findings challenge the stereotypical image of Vikings and offer a more nuanced view of their daily lives.

Advancements in Viking Dentistry

The dental techniques observed in Viking remains were not rudimentary. The evidence of infection treatment and cosmetic modifications speaks to a level of sophistication in their dental knowledge.

These practices show parallels with modern dentistry, highlighting an unexpected advancement in medical understanding during the Viking Age.

This groundbreaking research opens doors for further study into the health and cultural practices of ancient civilizations. Understanding the significance of oral health in Viking society could lead to more discoveries about their lifestyle, medical practices, and societal norms.

As we uncover more about the Vikings, our perception of them evolves from mere warriors to a complex society with advanced practices.

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Source: “Viking dentistry was surprisingly advanced” — ScienceDaily


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