Introduction of sugarcane in Al-Andalus (Medieval Spain) and its impact on children's dental health

Jimenez-Brobeil, Sylvia A.; Maroto, Rosa M.; Milella, Marco; Laffranchi, Zita; Reyes Botella, Candela

VL / 32 - BP / - EP /
The introduction of sugarcane in Europe by the Arabs in the 10th century AD brought about a drastic change in gastronomy and oral health. In Southern Spain (Al-Andalus), sugarcane was mainly consumed by the elite, although its consumption became relatively widespread during the Nasrid Kingdom. The aim of this study was to explore the effect of the introduction of sugar on human diet and oral health by comparing patterns of caries in deciduous teeth between nonadult skeletal samples from two Nasrid populations (La Torrecilla and Talara) and a comparative set representing various Iberian populations without access to sugarcane (from Bronze to Medieval Ages). We analyzed 770 teeth from 115 nonadults divided into three groups: infants under 2 years of age, nonadults presenting only deciduous teeth, and nonadults presenting mixed deciduous and permanent dentition. The frequency of caries is high in the Nasrid individuals and very low in the comparative sample. This finding is in agreement with contemporaneous written sources on the utilization of sugarcane in the diet and as a pacifier for infants during weaning. Differences in the frequency of caries between the Nasrid samples (higher in Talara) are likely related to the socioeconomic differences between these populations.

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