Christopher Silvester

A dental revolution? The intriguing effects of the profound social and dietary changes of the 18/19th centuries on the masticatory system

During the 18th-19th centuries, the diet of Britain, and arguably the diet of Homo sapiens more widely, was remade. New commodities, such as sugar, entered the field of mass consumption and the consumption of more heavily processed carbohydrates increased with advancements in food processing technologies. These changes propelled the eater towards a contemporary world increasingly dominated by the mass consumption of processed foods. This period of revolutionary dietary change has profound implications for the state of modern dentitions with evidence for a reduction in dental wear, increase in susceptibility to carious attack and reduction in jaw size. Malocclusion has been hypothesized as an aberrancy of modern urban groups exposed to a soft hyper-nutritive diet. The retention of an unworn occlusal form late into life has been associated with a high prevalence of dental failure in contemporary groups. Using a relatively new method of digital 3D dental wear pattern analysis called Occlusal Fingerprint Analysis (OFA), I shall investigate the impact this period of revolutionary dietary change has had on individual masticatory behaviours and occlusal relationships by comparing the dentitions of medieval and post-medieval individuals. In addition, photogrammetry will be explored as an alternative method to 3D laser scanning for generating the 3D dental models analysed by OFA to determine whether it could provide a more time efficient and cost-effective method. The project seeks to place the modern diet within the context of the evolution of the human dentition and explore the relationship between dietary composition and masticatory habits. It intends to further understand the aetiology of malocclusion and may hold relevance to the primary prevention of the condition in modern dentistry.

Funding organisation

  • LAHP

Supervisors

 Educational background

  • MSc, Bioarchaeological and Forensic Anthropology, UCL, 2015
  • BA, Archaeology, University of Cambridge, 2014

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