More History Through Dentistry

Posted on 9/11/2014 by Gregory A. Williams
History books about dentistryIn August, the office of Gregory A Williams, DMD, published a blog post discussing how heavy metals in our teeth can reveal the past: isotopes of heavy metals that are unique to geographical regions or historical periods can provide more clues about where our ancestors were and what they were up to.

Researchers examine heavy metals incorporated into tooth enamel, knowing that enamel is only formed at certain ages of a person's life. Now scientists are applying this technique to royalty.

Isotopes corroborate royal history

A new report in Journal of Archaeological Science states that in England, scientists have analyzed isotope measurements from the remains of King Richard III. Researchers took samples from the king's femur, rib, and teeth to learn more about his location and diet at different periods of his life and found them to be consistent with what we currently know about the monarch's day to day in the 1400s.

In terms of dental discoveries, King Richard's teeth confirmed a childhood move from Fotheringay Castle in Eastern England. Isotopes studied from the king's teeth suggested that past the age of seven, he lived in a rainier climate with older rocks! While we don't know the specifics of where the king lived based on his dental records, scientists can use what they learn to compare with other historical records of the time.

Medieval diet

Researchers also examined stable isotopes in King Richard's bones to learn more about his diet (which was found to be consistent with what highly aristocratic members of medieval Europe indulged in at the time– including various exotic waterfowl, like swans). While this information was not necessarily revealed by teeth (scientists used femur and rib bone), it almost certainly affected them!

Gregory A Williams, DMD: the perfect mix of science and patient care

At the office of Gregory A Williams, DMD, we love learning about how the science of teeth is enriching our world because we know how superior dentistry really does enrich lives. Schedule your next appointment with Dr. Williams to talk more about isotopes or your idea of a medieval feast–and we'll treat you like royalty.

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Tigard, OR 97224-2481

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