During the hunter-gatherer era, women’s dental health was inferior compared to that of men. When ancient man’s lifestyle changed upon discovery of farming, women’s dental health became even worse. There are different explanations for this. Some say that women had poor teeth because of cultural factors like cooking duties, which necessitated them to nibble on a lot of raw foods.
However, a new study done by anthropologist John Lukacs looks at an entirely new factor – the increasing pregnancy rates which involved changes in both hormones and diet. As ancient man became more settled and focused on agriculture, women tended to bear more children. Their dental health was affected because they went through a lot of physical changes.
Lukacs went through previous studies regarding prehistoric and existing humans. He observed a similar trend cutting through various cultures and nationalities. In general, women developed more cavities than men as they grew older. However, an interesting observation was that both men and women developed more cavities as the societies turned agricultural. This was attributed to having lesser diversity in diet as people learned the practice of farming and ate only what their crops produced.
For women, however, Lukacs found evidence on how increased pregnancy rates accompanied by higher levels of estrogen affected the health of their teeth. During pregnancy, women produce less saliva, and the quality of their saliva does not have the ability to protect their teeth from acid-producing bacteria. Changes in dietary cravings during pregnancy also contribute to women’s poor dental health. Women tend to want sweet foods particularly on their third trimester. They also eat more frequently because their stomachs are smaller.
However, Lukacs explained that he is not negating the other cultural factors that led to poor dental health in women. He stressed that taking a wider perspective and including the biological factors give a better understanding and explanation regarding the subject.