Friday, May 18, 2007

Roman Woman Had Golden Smile

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

The earliest known dental prosthesis from ancient Rome may not have been very functional, but it gave its wealthy wearer a million dollar smile.

The gleaming grin resulted from multi-karat gold wire, which was used to string together "artificial teeth," according to the team of Italian researchers who analyzed the ancient bridgework.

They found the object, which dates from the 1st to the 2nd century A.D., in the mouth of an unidentified woman who was buried in an elaborate mausoleum within a Roman necropolis.

"At the moment, this dental prosthesis is the only archaeological remain that corresponds to the literary descriptions (concerning dentistry) of the Roman Age," lead scientist Simona Minozzi told Discovery News.

Minozzi, an anthropologist at the University of Pisa, and her team quoted from the writings of 1st century Roman satirist Martial.

Martial wrote, "Lucania has white teeth, Thais brown. How comes it? One has false teeth, one her own. And you, Galla, lay aside your teeth at night just as you do your silken dress."

Minozzi believes the unidentified Roman's bridgework was made from the woman's own teeth that probably fell out due to periodontal disease. Gold wire bound the teeth together, with some teeth possessing drill holes to strengthen the wire bond. More gold wire secured the replaced tooth to side teeth that remained in her jaw.

The discovery is outlined in the current issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

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