The prevalence of hard tissue formations in the dental pulp varies considerably. Beside ageing processes and irritations of the dental pulp, etiological associations with cardiovascular disease and dietary habits have been discussed, which are of particular research interest. The aim of this pilot study is to provide new insights on structural and etiological factors involved in the development of pulp calcifications by investigating skeletal remains from different (pre)historic periods.
The jaws of 46 skeletons excavated in central Germany, were examined for the presence of pulp stones using digital volume tomography (DVT). A total of 1122 teeth were examined with all tooth types considered. To obtain information about the three-dimensional structure of pulp calcifications, micro-CT images were taken. Thin sections of three molars were histologically analysed. Potential dietary effects were studied by analysing stable isotope ratios of nitrogen (δN) in bone samples collected from each individual.
The analysis indicates that pulp stones affect molars in particular and increase slightly with age and dental wear. The micro-CT scans and the histological analysis show that the structures are much more complex than presumed on the basis of DVT imaging. Individuals with lower δN-isotope values and thus with a potentially lower proportion of animal protein in their diet appear to be less affected by pulp stones.
When comparing between archaeological and recent data, DVT analysis provides qualitatively comparable results. Micro-CT and histological images illustrate the excellent preservation of pulp calcifications and their complex structure. Differences in prevalence rates and δN-isotope values of Neolithic and historical individuals support the assumption that dietary habits and living conditions could have an influence on the development of pulp calcifications. Due to the small sample size these results require further validation.