A 17th century aristocrat used gold wire to preserve her teeth

Teeth are not only an important part of our mouth, but also a reflection of our overall health. The history of dental medicine goes back thousands of years, and every day scientists are discovering new facts about dental health and care. Recently, archaeologists and dentists uncovered a long-hidden secret about the teeth of 17th century French aristocrat Anne d’Alegre.

During an archaeological dig at Château Laval in northwestern France in 1988, the body of Anne d’Alegre, who died in 1619, was discovered. Her skeleton and teeth, preserved in a lead coffin, became the object of study for scientists. The study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, revealed the surprising fact that Anne d’Alegre used gold wire to prevent her teeth from falling out.

Gold wire is an unusual material to use in dentistry, especially in the 17th century. A “Cone Beam” scan, which uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images, revealed that gold wire was used to bind and tighten several of Anna d’Alegri’s teeth. This was necessary because of the periodontal disease the aristocrat suffered from. She also had an artificial ivory tooth, which was rare for the time.

However, as Rosenne Colleter, an archaeologist at the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research and lead author of the study, points out, this exquisite dental work only made matters worse. The gold wires had to be repeatedly tightened, which destabilized adjacent teeth. Thus, despite the attempt to preserve her teeth, Anna d’Alegre suffered pain and discomfort.

It turns out that Anna d’Alegre’s teeth are not only a testament to her health, but also to the difficult times she endured. She was a Huguenot, a Protestant who fought against Catholics in the French religious wars of the 16th century. She was widowed twice and lost her son in battle in Hungary. Her life was full of stress and upheaval, which affected her health, including the condition of her teeth.

Today, tooth and gum problems are still an issue for many people. According to the World Health Organization, nearly one-fifth of the world’s adult population suffers from severe periodontal disease. This emphasizes the importance of proper dental care and regular visits to the dentist.

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