Original paper

Social differences in oral health: Dental status of individuals buried in and around Trakai Church in Lithuania (16th–17th c.c.)

Miliauskienė, Žydrūnė; Jankauskas, Rimantas

Abstract

The evaluation of social differences in dental health is based on the assumption that individuals belonging to a higher social class consumed a different diet than a common people. The aim of our study was to analyse and compare dental health of 16th–17th c. individuals, buried inside and around the Roman Catholic Church in Trakai (Lithuania). All material (189 adult individuals) was divided in two samples of a presumably different social status: the Churchyard (ordinary townsmen) and the Presbytery (elite). Dental status analysis included that of tooth loss, tooth wear, caries, abscesses and calculus. Results revealed higher prevalence of dental disease in the Churchyard sample compared to the Presbytery. Individuals buried around the church had statistically higher prevalence of caries, antemortem tooth loss and abscesses compared to those who were buried inside the church. The Churchyard sample was also characterised by a higher increase in severity of caries with age, and a more rapid tooth wear. Differences in dental health between the samples the most probably reflect different dietary habits of people from different social groups: poor quality carbohydrate based diet of laymen buried in the churchyard and more varied diet with proteins and of a better quality of local elite, buried inside the church. Substantial sex differences in dental health were found only in the Churchyard sample: males had statistically higher prevalence of abscesses and calculus, while females had higher prevalence of caries and AMTL (antemortem tooth loss). Females were also characterised by a higher increase in the number of dental decay and tooth loss with age and had higher prevalence of gross caries, which indicates a more rapid progression of the disease. Worse dental health of females could be a result of culturally based dietary differences between females (more carbohydrates) and males (more proteins) and different physiological demands (hormonal fluctuations and suppression of immune system during pregnancy).

Keywords

social statusmedievaldental statuscaries