Viking Dentistry Goes Deeper Than Expected, University Study Finds

University of Gothenburg


A recent study conducted at the University of Gothenburg sheds light on the dental practices of the Viking Age population in Varnhem, Sweden. Examining 3,293 teeth from 171 individuals, the research team discovered that 49% of the Viking population had one or more caries lesions. Among adults, 13% experienced caries, often at the roots, while children with milk teeth were entirely caries-free.


Tooth loss was prevalent among adults, with an average loss of 6% of their teeth (excluding wisdom teeth) over their lifetimes. The risk of tooth loss increased with age. Despite these challenges, the study revealed instances of advanced dentistry among the Vikings, including tooth modifications such as the use of toothpicks, filing front teeth, and dental treatment for infected teeth.

Notably, some molars exhibited holes filed from the crown into the pulp, possibly to relieve pressure and address severe toothache caused by infection. This finding suggests a level of sophistication in dental procedures reminiscent of contemporary practices. The filed front teeth may have served as identity markers, and the study, predominantly involving male cases, offers new insights into Viking oral health. Overall, the research indicates that Viking dentistry in Varnhem was more advanced than previously believed.

The study, “Caries prevalence and other dental pathological conditions in Vikings from Varnhem, Sweden,” was published December 2023 in PLOS ONE.

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