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Dental Paleopathologies in the Sanders Site (41LR2) Population from Lamar County, Texas
Journal of Northeast Texas Archeology
Dental health, like skeletal health, reflects the natural and social environment, as well as genetics. This paper focuses on the results of stress on the teeth once they have erupted; stresses include chemical, mechanical, and pathogenic forces. These forces are primarily the result of dietary factors. The specific aspects of dental health examined in this paper are cariogenesis, dental attrition, antemortem tooth loss, and abscessing. These dental paleopathologies primarily reflect diet and food processing strategies.
Throughout the Americas, dental disorders have increased with the adoption of maize agriculture. Reliance on maize provides a sticky, carbohydraterich dietary staple that is favorable to microbial attack. Maize cultivation has been ... correlated with an increase in caries and abscess frequency.
Poor dental health also may directly impact general physical health. Periodontal disease often results in gingival inflammation, abscessing, and tooth loss. Lesions in the mouth can be the port of entry for pathogens, such as staphylococci and streptococci, that may then travel to other parts of the body.
Dental attrition is not considered a disorder in this paper, but the natural result of a diet high in unprocessed vegetal materials and grit. Grit is introduced into the diet from a variety of means, but I will focus on the introduction of grit through stone grinding implements. Sand particles can also result in a considerable amount of attrition. Dental attrition can, however, lead to pathologies if the pulp cavity is exposed. In this case, the pulp cavity may serve as the focus of infection, resulting in abscessing and eventual tooth loss.
Dental health is thus largely dependent on dietary factors. The examination of dental health is useful in reconstructing nutritional behaviors. It will be seen in this examination of the teeth that the maize agriculturalists at the Sanders site were primarily affected by a high frequency of caries. Other factors examined (moderate dental enamel attrition, slight antemortem tooth loss, and slight abscessing) suggest that dietary behaviors were not as detrimental to the Sanders population as has been noted for other maize-dependent agricultural groups. If nutrition was related to status among Caddoan groups, this may be the result of the assumed high status of the individuals interred at the Sanders site, since all the individuals were interred in a mound context.
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