One of the big stories in gum disease this week is that supposedly British people during Roman times had better oral health than modern people. This is pretty shocking, because, of course, Romans didn’t generally have dentists and didn’t have fluoride toothpaste. Articles about the study compare the supposed 5% periodontal rate of Roman-era Britons with the supposed 10-30% prevalence of periodontitis and receding gums among modern Britons.
But did Britons really have better oral health during Roman times than modern people? Not really.
Periodontal Disease Rates in the US
Actually, modern estimates of gum disease rates in the US go as high as 47% among adults age 30 and over. That’s nearly 10 times the rate experienced during Roman times!
But before we get too excited, let’s take a moment to see how this is defined.
First, there are three grades of periodontal disease considered. Mild, moderate, and severe. Most people have moderate periodontal disease, about 30% of the population, with smaller proportions having mild or severe periodontitis (8.7% and 8.5%, respectively). Periodontal disease is defined by the amount of receding gums, with severe gum disease being defined as having receding gums of at least 6mm (about a quarter inch) or more on two teeth, and one tooth with a pocket depth of 5 mm or more.
What the Study Found
It’s hard to determine the amount of gum recession experienced by people who have long been dead, but the study used tartar deposits to determine the amount of gum recession. This is preserved in the skulls. The study defined periodontal disease as being the presence of three teeth with a minimum of 5 mm of gum recession.
This is more comparable to severe periodontal disease, which affects only 8.5% of the population, as opposed to milder forms that account for the bulk of cases.
And it’s also hard to compare the gum disease rates because the populations are different. The study looked at skulls from people of all ages, but the modern US estimate only looks at people age 30 and over. And the Roman sample only includes about 6% of people over the age of 65, compared to about 13% of the population today in that age group. Because gum disease rates increase significantly with age, it’s likely that the rate of gum disease during Roman times was similar, if not slightly more.
Gum Disease Is a Common Problem
Even though we likely don’t have as bad a problem as people suffered during the Roman era, gum disease is still a very common problem in the US. If you are unhappy with the appearance of receding gums, we can help with a nonsurgical gum rejuvenation that can restore receding gums back to a healthier, more attractive position.
To learn whether we can help you, please call 310-275-5325 in Beverly Hills or 949-551-5902 in Orange County.