Dental Calculus and National Geographic?

Andrew Curry from National Geographic has published a history article1 from 2019 highlighting the role Dental Calculus is playing in deciphering the mysteries of the histories. Reading through the article we learn that scientists, archaeologists, paleogeneticists, microscopists, and chemists, are studying dental plaque found on teeth from skeletal remains. The Nat Geo article is a summary from Science Advances2.

What Can the Calculus Tell Us?

The researchers call it fossilized plaque, but calculus is able to trap all sorts of things including bacterial DNA, minerals, and information on the typical diet of the skeleton.

Of interest, this article highlights that the researchers found a rare mineral, lazurite, in the dental calculus of a woman from around 1100 A.D. This is impressive as it appears that this blue mineral was used by medieval artists and scribes–a profession thought to only be held by men of the time.

photography by: Christina Warinner2

What Does this Mean for Us?

If you have an issue with future aliens or scientists digging through your teeth to learn what you ate, drank, or put in your mouth–Then you better be brushing and keeping your teeth clean so they can’t study your dental calculus.

  1. Curry, A. (2019, January 10). Precious jewels in teeth reveal medieval woman artist. National Geographic. Retrieved October 6, 2021, from 
  2. Radini, A., Tromp, M., Beach, A., Tong, E., Speller, C., McCormick, M., Dudgeon, J. V., Collins, M. J., Rühli, F., Kröger, R., & Warinner, C. (2019). Medieval women’s early involvement in manuscript production suggested by lapis lazuli identification in dental calculus. Science advances5(1), eaau7126.

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