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Dentistry Ohio

England's King Richard III

It was second half of the 15th century when central England was caught within the turmoil of several dynastic civil wars, the so-called Wars of the Roses.  The Houses of Lancaster and York both laid claim to the throne of England and it all came to a head on August 22, 1485.  It was here during the heat of the Battle of Bosworth Field that King Richard III was tossed from his horse leading Shakespeare to depict him crying out, "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!" In the end Richard III was defeated and killed by the Lancastrians. 

The king’s body was thrown across a horse and taken to Leicester where he was publicly displayed for several days to ensure the Middle Age citizenry accepted that Richard III was indeed dead.  He was later buried there in the church of the Franciscan Greyfriar friary.  In 1536 his tomb was rather unceremonially destroyed along with the rest of the church. 

Across the centuries the site hosted a manor house and several other Georgian houses along with a series of roads built to service their needs.  During the Victorian era the Alderman Newton Boys School and other buildings dominated the site. 

In recent years it was Dr. John Ashdown-Hill, historian and author of ‘The Last Days of Richard III’ who returned to Leicester and spearheaded the efforts resulting in the search for and discovery of the skeletal remains of King Richard III.   

Yes, here I go again on another of my historical journeys.  “And what” you ask, “does the tragic story of King Richard III have to do with dentistry?”  In the April 2013 British Dental Journal, a study is detailed concerning the insights gleaned on the oral health of the Middle Ages from the discovery of King Richard III’s remains.  Surely we all would envision a common peasantry dominated by dental disease and misery but Dr. Amit Rai, author of the study reports findings quite to the contrary.  “For the lower social classes, access to limited range of dietary sugars and consistent inability to cook carbohydrates resulted in a reduced caries (tooth decay) experience”, wrote Dr. Rai.  “By the same reasoning, it is likely that the more affluent of individuals suffered with a greater caries experience, as was the case with the Grey Friars remains.” 

Indeed the skull of Richard III shows he was missing his upper left first molar, his upper right second bicuspid and the lower right first molar.  The remaining teeth showed evidence of additional dental caries as well as heavy buildup of calculus/tartar, the causative agent largely responsible for periodontal disease.     

I guess sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be rich and famous!  

Tagged In: Anthropology, History

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