Lessons from examination of the Tyrolean Ice Man, Otzi, continue as his remains are sliced, examined, and scanned. We now learn that he had dental decay.
See this National Geographic report: Leader of the Plaque: Iceman Otzi had Bad Teeth.:
“The 3-D Scans reveal the mess that was Otzi’s mouth, especially around his back teeth. The gum tissue surrounding the rear molars had retreated almost to the tip of the root. The tooth decay is significant because it shows how starchy foods and the agriculture that created them were a part of Otzi’s regular diet. The team attributes his cavities to eating more breads and cereals.”
As we have recently discussed, tooth decay was uncommon during the pre-Neolithic period. Despite the lack of fluoridated water, toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, dentists, and orthodontists, most primitive humans were spared tooth decay, tooth loss, tooth abscess, even through late adulthood . . . until we consumed grains.
So even ancient wild grains were responsible for tooth decay. In Otzi’s case, it was einkorn and/or Triticum wheat. (A number of analyses have been performed on his intestinal contents, such as this genetic analysis of food remnants.)
This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint: Modern children, teenagers, and adults suffer tooth decay, tooth loss, tooth abscess, along with malformations of the maxillary and mandibular bones that result in crooked teeth. Surely these changes would have proven maladaptive in a primitive world without dental hygiene and dental care. If you can’t chew your food at age 18 because you’ve lost many of your teeth, well, in a primitive setting you die of starvation.
Primitive people who did not eat grains were therefore relatively free of dental decay–because they ate no grains. Otzi lived during a time when wild grains were increasingly being incorporated into the diet of Homo sapiens . . . and he’s got the teeth to prove it.