In examining ancient human dental problems, scientists have discovered an unusual cause for the erosion of tooth enamel: dust.
By looking at worn tooth surfaces, researchers have found that quartz dust was a significant cause of enamel microwear. In particular, our East African ancestors may have suffered enamel abrasion from dust storms, especially from particles carried in the seasonal winds of the Arabian peninsula.
These results may alter scientists’ understanding of how microwear reflects dietary habits. Our ancestors’ environment (dust storms and droughts) may actually have had as significant an impact on dental health as did their diet.