DESPITE the benefits of fluoride toothpaste, electric toothbrush and floss, modern Britons have worse gums than their ancestors living in the Roman times, scientists claim.
Scientists believe gum disease was far less prevalent 1,800 years ago because people in Roman Britain did not smoke and were virtually free of diabetes - two health factors which can inflame gums.
Severe chronic gum disease, or periodontitis, results from an inflammatory response to the build-up of plaque and can cause tooth loss.
To make their findings, scientists examined 303 skulls from a Romano-British burial ground in Poundbury, Dorset and found that only 5 per cent showed signs of moderate to severe gum disease.
But in modern Britain, a chronic gum disease rate of 15 per cent to 30 per cent is common.
Lead researcher Professor Francis Hughes, from King's College London's Dental Institute, said: "We were very struck by the finding that severe gum disease appeared to be much less common in the Roman British population than in modern humans, despite the fact that they did not use toothbrushes or visit dentists as we do today."