The Teeth of King Richard III

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What can the teeth of King Richard III tell us about oral hygiene in the middle ages? Quite a bit!

iStock_000016461528SmallKing Richard III was the King of England from 1483-1485 and was the last English King to die in battle. His remains were found in September 2012 under a parking lot. This parking lot was the former site of the Church of Grey Friars, where King Richard III was buried in an unmarked grave.

Scientists studied King Richard III’s teeth and found that he had very poor oral health and suffered from dental decay and tartar buildup. He was missing several teeth and had mineralized deposits on some of the remaining teeth. On other teeth that were still in King Richard III mouth, they showed less decay than others. This suggested that King Richard III had some knowledge of how to care for his teeth. It is possible that King Richard III used some of the techniques of Giovanni de Arcoli, a medieval professor of medicine. He suggested, not eating sweets, not breaking hard things with the teeth, rinsing and cleaning the teeth after every meal using thin pieces of wood. Barbers of this time were also known to practice a form of dentistry, although they were not regulated.

It is not surprising that King Richard III had poor teeth because people of affluence were more likely to have poor teeth, than the peasants. People in the lower classes had less access to sugar and less ability to cook carbohydrates. This meant that they were less likely to have tooth decay that the higher classes of people like King Richard III.

It seems that no matter the time period, people work to take care of their teeth, and so should you! Call The Smile Center to schedule your next apoointment! 701-258-1321