Their influence surrounds me. I live on an old Roman road, Watling Street, that stretches between London and St. Albans.
The diet during that time, rich in coarse grains and cereals, meant the population suffered from extensive tooth wear from a young age.
But, according to research into skeletons from that era, people living in Roman Britain had healthier gums than their modern-day descendants. A team at King's College London and the Natural History Museum found only 5% of adults had gum disease in the Roman era compared to 33% today.
However, ancient Britain was certainly not a golden age of bright white teeth. Our ancestor's smiles were littered with infections, abscesses and tooth decay.
The research group analyzed over 300 skulls from a burial ground in Poundbury, in Dorset. The skeletons, mostly of people who died in their 40s, dated from between 200 and 400 AD.
It is estimated that one in three adults in England today have tooth decay. Modern day smoking and type 2 diabetes are blamed for a figure of nearly one in three today.
What can we learn from this? Don't smoke or get diabetes. And most importantly, make sure you eat a balanced diet without chewing on hard grains, although crunchy food like apples and celery are good for gums. I am inclined to support what my father said: “Everything in moderation.”
Is your diet healthy enough to keep your teeth and gums intact?