Tooth Cavities Provide Unique Ecological Insight into Living Primates and Fossil Humans

Tooth decay is a common and unfortunate problem for many of us, but two University of Otago studies show it is also an issue for other primates, as well as our fossil relatives and ancestors.

Dr Ian Towle, the former Sir Thomas Sidey Postdoctoral Fellow in Otago’s Faculty of Dentistry, says cavities are often considered to be a modern disease unique to humans, related to a diet rich in processed sugary foods. However, he says there is growing evidence tooth decay also occurs to a certain extent in other animal groups.

“Our new research shows caries also occurs in wild primates in low frequencies, although this is highly variable among groups and the teeth affected also vary,” he says.

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