Tooth decay has been a problem for primates for 54 million years

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By Krista Charles


An artist’s content of an Eosimias primate, which lived betwixt 45 and 40 cardinal years ago


We are apt to make dental cavities implicit clip due to the fact that sugars successful our carbohydrate-rich fare enactment oral bacteria that merchandise demineralising acids. Now determination is grounds that the occupation goes backmost to the aboriginal days of primate evolution. Microsyops latidens, a prehistoric primate that lived during the Early Eocene astir 54 cardinal years ago, besides had to woody with cavities.

“I was going done the [fossil] illustration and I kept noticing these holes successful their teeth and I wondered what they were,” says Keegan Selig astatine the University of Toronto Scarborough successful Canada. “It was astonishing adjacent to spot cavities successful these critters, and past to spot conscionable however predominant they were was precise surprising. We didn’t expect that they would beryllium truthful communal compared to surviving primates.”

Selig and his workfellow Mary Silcox, besides astatine the University of Toronto Scarborough, examined the fossilised teeth of 1030 individuals collected from the confederate Bighorn basin successful Wyoming. They recovered that 7.48 per cent of individuals had cavities, a higher frequence than seen successful astir existent surviving primates with the objection of immoderate capuchins and tamarins.

The M. latidens teeth are the oldest known grounds of dental cavities successful immoderate mammal, according to Selig and Silcox.

M. latidens astir apt had a sensation for high-sugar foods specified arsenic fruit, which could person led to these cavities if they were eating a batch of them.

“These critters evidently didn’t person dental floss oregon toothbrushes, truthful you’d expect the cavities to benignant of signifier everywhere, but the cavities lone formed connected the main chewing aboveground of the tooth, which is surprising. We don’t truly cognize why,” says Selig.

The fossils came from somewhat antithetic levels successful the past stone series and truthful supply grounds of the M. latidens colonisation implicit an extended period, possibly implicit thousands of years. At definite levels successful the sequence, the incidence of cavities was adjacent higher; astatine 1 level, 17 per cent of individuals were affected. This fluctuation could beryllium explained by changes successful diet, accidental the researchers.

Although the results are interesting, Ian Towle astatine London South Bank University successful the UK points retired that the damaged teeth could besides bespeak a fare affluent successful acidic foods alternatively than sugary ones. “The methodology utilized cannot differentiate betwixt these types of insubstantial loss, since some are caused by acids demineralising dental tissue,” helium says.

Journal reference: Scientific Reports, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-95330-x

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