When humans became more dependent on carbohydrates, the diversity in our oral microbiome suffered. Farming brought significant dietary changes to human societies worldwide, causing microbial populations in human mouths to change dramatically. By studying fossilized bacteria in plaque from ancient teeth, scientists link carbohydrates and highly processed foods to the rise of two species of harmful oral bacteria that increase our susceptibility to cavities and gum disease.

Science Bulletins is a production of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History


Nature Genetics: Sequencing ancient calcified dental plaque shows changes in oral microbiota with dietary shifts of the Neolithic and Industrial revolutions

Australian Center for Ancient DNA

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

Science: How Sweet It Is—Genes Show How Bacteria Colonized Human Teeth

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