Evolutionary History of Periodontitis and the Oral Microbiota—Lessons for the Future

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Purpose of Review: Currently, periodontal disease is the sixth most prevalent disease in the world. Emerging evidence suggests the possibility of pre-historic humans having relatively low occurrences of oral diseases, particularly periodontitis when compared to modern humans. In this review, we look back into the history of Homo sapiens and explore the emerging scientific literature to discuss the evolution of the human oral microbiota and the prevalence of periodontitis from pre-historic to modern times. Recent Findings: Most of the scientific literature points to a more health-associated, eubiotic oral microbiota and a seemingly lower prevalence of periodontitis in pre-historic humans compared to modern times. The oral microbiome has evolved along with humans. Humans of the contemporary era are exposed to a far greater number of risk factors for periodontal disease. Also, major lifestyle changes induced by the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution have led to the development of a more dysbiotic oral microbiota and a rise in the prevalence of periodontitis in modern humans. Summary: An understanding of the prevalence of periodontitis across human history, the evolution of the oral microbiota, and the factors that influenced its nature and complexity helps identify and modify the disease-associated lifestyle factors acquired through modernization to manage the common worldwide problem of periodontitis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-116
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent Oral Health Reports
Issue number2
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Oral Surgery
  • Immunology and Microbiology (miscellaneous)


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