Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work as a detective? Are you obsessed with shows like NCIS and CSI? While detective work isn’t as glamorous or dramatic as they make it seem on TV, that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s not interesting, or that the smallest details can prove to be important.

For example: did you know that your teeth keep a record of where you grew up?

Researchers have discovered how to analyze tooth enamel to determine what oxygen isotopes were present when the teeth were forming, from approximately two to eight years old. Because of the variability in oxygen isotopes from place to place, scientists can then match the isotopes that were present in an individual’s past to a geographic location — showing them precisely where that person’s teeth were formed!

Set of Homo erectus skull. Discovered in 1969 in Sangiran, Java, Indonesia. With these dated to 1 million years ago we can use tooth enamel to solve mysteries like travel and what prehistoric Britons ate.

Prehistoric Tooth Enamel Indicates Wide-Ranging Travel

When this method was applied to pig teeth recovered from the feast debris around Marden Henge in Britain, the findings were astonishing: As early as 2500 BC, ancient Britons were not just traveling around their own country, but were even traveling to and from continental Europe! While some of the pig tooth enamel and other foods indicated that their bearers grew up and were buried in the same place, many indicated the opposite — that pigs were transported across the country and even from Europe to be slaughtered for celebratory feasts at the stone age site.

It’s incredible to think that tooth enamel tells us that prehistoric humans may have been traveling as far and as frequently as people were traveling thousands of years later — but without the aid of the same transportation tools that were later developed.

Teeth as Evidence

Teeth can be incredibly useful tools for scientists to study. Like bones, teeth decay much more slowly than other human tissues, so they’re long-lasting sources of data on our ancestors. But unlike bones, teeth are accessible to us day-to-day — from eating to drinking to dental work, we have an impact on our tooth enamel, and that impact can be seen and studied even thousands of years later.

Studies of ancient plaque have undercut perceptions we’ve had about our relationship with bread. While it was once thought that bread was only ten thousand years old, recent research has dated it to nearly 14,000 years old.

Someday, scientists in the distant future might use your tooth enamel to figure out where you went, what you ate, and how your oral hygiene was performed. What do you think they’ll say about your teeth?

If it’s been awhile since your last appointment, schedule one now, and give those researchers a chance to figure out mysteries about our life that may be lost thousands of years from now.

If you are looking for a partner who can help you maintain good oral health in Rockland County, experienced dentist Dr. Mark Dunayer is prepared to help. To learn whether he is the right dentist for you, please call (845) 627-7645 today for an appointment at B & D Dental Excellence.