Filing Through Pain: The Surprising Dental DIY Tactics of the Vikings

By: | December 22nd, 2023

Image by Pixabay

Vikings were renowned for their fearsome raids and conquests, leaving a trail of destruction across Europe. But recent research suggests they also faced a more mundane foe: toothaches.

The Vikings’ diverse diet, encompassing meat, honey, dairy, grains, and alcoholic beverages like beer and mead, likely played a role in their dental problems.

Viking Oral Health Unveiled in Swedish Cemetery Study

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg analyzed over 3,200 teeth from 171 Swedish Vikings buried in a 10th to 12th-century cemetery, finding that almost two-thirds of Viking adults had at least one cavity.

The consumption of starchy foods such as bread and porridge, along with the use of honey to sweeten meals and the intake of fruits, contributed to the prevalence of cavities among the Vikings. Additionally, their reliance on beer, attributed to water quality concerns, may have further exacerbated tooth decay, underscoring the multifaceted factors influencing their oral health.

Surprisingly advanced dentistry!

While the Vikings may have lacked toothbrushes, research indicates a surprising level of dental hygiene awareness. Dental markings suggest they utilized toothpicks, akin to contemporary dental floss, to effectively remove food particles from between their teeth.

Deprived of fillings and root canals, Vikings resorted to DIY tooth drilling using tools and sometimes had to pull teeth to manage pain. Even without professional drills, they created holes in teeth to alleviate pressure and release infection pus.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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