By Philippe Charlier

Scholars have recently shown a clear increase in the frequency of caries and tooth loss for humans after the end of the 18th c. [1] For the authors, changes in nutrition (more sugar) and dental health (possibly higher frequency of tooth extraction) could be the underlying factors which led to this minor to moderate shift of dental disease frequencies in Europe. In fact, other major factors may have play a key-role at this period [2], causing a modification of oral microbiome, especially at the level of the dental plaque: introduction of first vaccinations (smallpox), apparition and/or increase of the consummation of new aliments (potatoes, coffee, chocolate, tomatoes, maize, etc.) or drugs (tobacco), beginning of the industrial revolution (with subsequent changes in the time and mode of work, and the adaptation of human biology to it). Further metagenomic analysis of dental calculus will be necessary to investigate any significant modification of the oral microbiome that could confirm or not this hypothesis, comparable to the procedures used for the evolutionary stages of pre-humans, but on a wider scale.


  1. Müller A, Hussein K. Meta-analysis of teeth from European populations before and after the 18th century reveals a shift towards increased prevalence of caries and tooth loss. Arch Oral Biol. 2017;73:7-15.
  2. Andrews K. History of medicine: Health, medicine and disease in the eighteenth century. Br J 18th Cent Stud. 2011; 34: 503-15.


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Philippe Charlier



Published: 26 Mar, 2017

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