A team led by scientists from Switzerland, Denmark and the UK have unearthed a so-called ‘microbial Pompeii’ on the teeth of 1,000 year old skeletons. Publishing in Nature Genetics, the researchers found that ancient humans’ teeth were plagued by the same kinds of bacteria that bug us today, despite major changes in diet and dental hygiene.
By studying bacteria and food particles buried in plaque on the skeletons’ teeth, the scientists were able to figure out what these people may have eaten, and more about how they might have lived and died. Today, more than one in ten people around the world are affected by gum disease - just as these ancestors were - and it’s linked to major illnesses such as stroke and type 2 diabetes. So understanding more about how the bacteria in our mouths have grown with us might yield important information for human health in the future.