Comment: Low dental caries rate in Neandertals: The result of diet or the oral flora composition?
Dental caries is an infectious disease caused by oral acidophilic bacteria feeding on fermentable sugars, e.g. Streptococcus mutans. The frequency of dental caries in Neandertals was very low. This was usually explained as the result of a low-sugar diet. Recent research, however, revealed some regional differences between European and Near Eastern Neandertals, with the latter consuming considerable amounts of plants including highly cariogenic dates. This discovery, compared with the results of research on genetic diversity of S. mutans, may suggest that this species, and perhaps other most virulent species, were absent in the oral flora of Neandertals.DOI: 10.1016/j.jchb.2012.02.001