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How his dentition helped to identify Richard III

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Following the discovery of Richard III’s remains under a car park in Leicester, I was interested to spot an article in the British Dental Journal which describes how his dentition played an important part in confirming his identity. There were no surviving dental records for Richard III but the identity of his remains was confirmed by retrieving DNA samples from three of his molar teeth. The condition of the king’s teeth is interesting with some tooth surface loss, which the article states was most due to dental abrasion and erosion.

However, the dentine exposure is not severe, indicating someone of a high social rank. More severe dentine exposure would be expected in less affluent members of society since they would have eaten a coarser diet of grains that would have required chewing for a sustained period.

Carbon dating of the skeleton has revealed that the diet of the individual was rich in protein, particularly marine fish, again implying high status. The diet rich in seafood has religious connotations based on the catholic tradition of abstaining from meat on the fifth day of the week and eating seafood instead.

The remains also suggest a high level of dental caries in that several teeth are missing. More affluent individuals had greater access to dietary sugars compared with the lower social classes, whose inability to cook dietary carbohydrates resulted in a reduced number of caries.

Dental mineral deposits suggest tartar build-up. Later analysis of this tartar will apparently allow identification of the strains of bacteria that inhabited the king’s mouth, and a better insight into his diet.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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