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Erosive and Mechanical Tooth Wear in Viking Age Icelanders

Erosive and Mechanical Tooth Wear in Viking Age Icelanders

By Svend Richter and Sigfus Thor Eliasson

Dentistry Journal, Volume 5, Number 24, 2017

Image: Lannon Harley, ANU.

Abstract: (1) Background: The importance of the Icelandic Sagas as a source of information about diet habits in medieval Iceland, and possibly other Nordic countries, is obvious. Extensive tooth wear in archaeological material worldwide has revealed that the main cause of this wear is believed to have been a coarse diet. Near the volcano Hekla, 66 skeletons dated from before 1104 were excavated, and 49 skulls could be evaluated for tooth wear. The purpose of this study was to determine the main causes of tooth wear in light of diet and beverage consumption described in the Sagas.

(2) Materials and methods: Two methods were used to evaluate tooth wear and seven for age estimation.

(3) Results: Extensive tooth wear was seen in all of the groups, increasing with age. The first molars had the highest score, with no difference between sexes. These had all the similarities seen in wear from a coarse diet, but also presented with characteristics that are seen in erosion in modern Icelanders, through consuming excessive amounts of soft drinks. According to the Sagas, acidic whey was a daily drink and was used for the preservation of food in Iceland, until fairly recently.


(4) Conclusions: It is postulated that the consumption of acidic drinks and food, in addition to a coarse and rough diet, played a significant role in the dental wear seen in ancient Icelanders.

Click here to read this article from MDPI Open Access Journals

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