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Hunter Gatherers Had Cavities Too: Dental News from Kelowna Dentists


If our stone age ancestors didn’t have chocolate bars or soda, or even wheat, surely they didn’t have cavities, right? Well, our Kelowna dental clinic is keen to share interesting new research that suggests our hunter gatherer ancestors had rotten teeth because of their own kind of junk food: acorns and pine nuts.

Researchers from London’s Natural History Museum studied the teeth of 52 skeletons that were nearly 15,000 years old and taken from a cave in Morocco at the tip of North Africa.

So, what did researchers find? More than 50 per cent of the teeth they examined showed signs of tooth decay and rot. In fact, only three mouths were cavity-free!

That’s “exceptionally high” the researchers say in their report, comparing the cavity rate to “modern industrialized populations with a diet high in refined sugars and processed cereals.”


Why Did Our Stone Age Ancestors Have Cavities?

Inside the cave, researchers were able to study the charred remains of food eaten by the hunter gatherers who lived in the cave thousands of years ago.

What were they eating? A diet high in pine nuts and acorns, as well as wild oats, pistachios and juniper berries. All that wild nut junk food was probably the cause of some serious tooth decay and toothaches.

Both pine nuts and acorns have high levels of fermentable carbohydrates that can become lodged in the teeth and attract oral bacteria. Plus, these cavemen certainly didn’t have toothbrushes.


Why Experts Are Surprised

Cavities were thought to first appear in the farming age since research has shown tooth decay is strongly linked to agriculture. Experts previously believed the hunter gatherers of more than 13,000 years ago would have had pearly whites.

Researchers also noted that having a stash of nuts and other ancient junk food probably made these stone age cave dwellers much more sedentary (sitting around rather than running and hunting, for example) than previously believed.


What Stone Age Cavities Would Have Meant

When you get a cavity, you can go to your Kelowna dental clinic for a filling and a professional cleaning. Not so for our stone age ancestors. Researchers concluded these cave people would have bad breath, painful toothaches and even abscesses.

Now that you’ve learned some quirky teeth findings about our ancestors , discover more about the teeth of our four-legged friends in the post Kelowna Dentists Explore Fun Facts About Animal Teeth.

Whether you’re visiting us for cosmetic or general dentistry, we provide a comfortable experience with results that will last. Contact us to book an appointment today!

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