Vikings and Teeth: The History You Didn’t Learn in School

Fans of the show Vikings, streaming on a TV near you via Amazon Prime or Hulu, know that these seafaring folk were an unstoppable force of nature during the height of their plundering. Although they were far from the only people to pillage the village, what set them apart from their contemporaries was their willingness to steal from religious orders.

All of this disregard for the general moral order of the time, plus the blood baths they tended to leave in their wake created a legend that’s grown far beyond reality.

The Vikings were absolutely terrifying and you didn’t want to be in their way, but they were also very tuned into fashion and trendy dentistry. You knew that was coming, didn’t you? They weren’t necessarily doing regular root canals, but they did incorporate cosmetic dental practices on the regular.

Vikings, World Travel and Dentistry

If you were a Viking, part of your day to day life was ending up in random ports pretty much anywhere in the world. We know they made it to North America, as far inland as Illinois via the Great Lakes, and there’s plenty of evidence of trade with the many people of Asia and Africa. That’s where it gets a bit more interesting.

A Swedish anthropologist has been working with 24 skeletons that have unusual cosmetic groves ground into their front teeth. This was not a known European practice, so scientists went on a search to figure out where these guys might have learned about cosmetic dentistry.

As it turned out, American tribes that have been linked to the Viking trade also practiced a similar type of tooth manipulation. Before these guys went into battle or off to chase some peasants around, they’d fill those groove with bright red pigment so they could scare the bejeebus out of anyone they happened to come across.

A mass of angry men carrying weapons and clad in, let’s go with leather and iron, was not scary enough. It would seem. So instead of coming in for a cleaning and whitening treatment to look like a more competent professional, the Vikings cut grooves in their teeth. Considering that the graves dated from between 800 AD and 1050 AD, that’s pretty impressive work!

Teeth as Totems

Of course, that’s not the only unusual Viking practice that involved teeth, just the most drastic and historic on record. They were also associated with the comforts of home. When a child lost a tooth, it was often carried off to sea by their father. They believed that personal items had protective powers, especially the teeth of someone you loved.

Although they didn’t invent the Tooth Fairy as we know her, the Vikings did practice tooth-collection to hedge their bets against the angry tide, oceanic storms and notable opponents.

Even though Viking dentistry was primarily cosmetic, you have to admire them for what they were doing with what they had available. How long still could you sit while I cut grooves in your teeth with primitive tools? Don’t answer that, the entire thought makes me wince a little.

Dentistry is Still an Effective Tool of the Elite

According to researchers, it’s likely that dentistry was only for the most elite warriors and was performed by extremely skilled hands. Since the Vikings were always concerned about their look, combing their hair and even ironing their clothing with hot rocks, it only makes sense that they embraced cosmetic dentistry as much as we do today.

Everybody knows you lead with your smile. Even Vikings.

Whether you’re a Viking, a banker or a soccer mom, the condition of your teeth tell a story. For Vikings, it was a story of exploration and heroic deeds. For you, the shape your teeth are in can say just as much about your social standing.

Don’t let your teeth betray you. Drs. Krieger and Hur are standing by to help you with any cosmetic dentistry you may need, from a basic cleaning to fitting you for Invisalign and so much more. Call us today at (201) 560-0606 or send us an email to set up your appointment. We’ll help your tell your story with your smile

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