What do these things have in common? Vikings, Berserkers and bad teeth. Yes, you got it – they can all hurt you! Of course a Viking battle-axe may do more damage more quickly than your bad teeth. In actual fact, most Vikings were farmers on holiday and they used light weight axes which were easy to handle. To go ‘a viking’ was a verb and meant to go raiding. Still, those wooden shafted axes could do plenty of damage in a fight when handled well. Berserkers were the most feared Vikings of all.

Filed Down Teeth, Tattooed & Naked Viking Swinging His Big Axe

Your Viking Berserker was, as the name suggests, a frenzied warrior in battle. Oftentimes, these savage individuals were drugged up and naked. Sounds like something from most Aussies’ younger party years. The Berserker would always be in the vanguard of the battle and usually leap into the fray swinging his axe in a frenzied whirl of mad savagery. This Viking would inspire fear in the opposing side because of the extreme courage and foolhardiness exhibited. In some ways, it is like that walking on hot coals trick done at those new age seminars and Anthony Robbin’s workshops. The predictive mind can achieve great feats of mind over matter when prepped to do so. The Berserker and many Viking warriors were big fans of filing their teeth into fangs for further fear inducing impressions. Can you imagine a big, bollock naked, tattooed chap with fangs and a bloodied great battle-axe leaping into your vicinity? It would take some getting used to. Tony Robbins eat your heart out!

Uncovering The Truth About Viking Teeth

“In 2005, excavations in Varnhem, Sweden uncovered the remains of a Christian church, near which was a cemetery containing thousands of Viking graves dating to the 10th to 12th century AD. In this study, Bertilsson and colleagues performed clinical and radiographical examination of the dentition of individuals from this site. In total, the team analyzed more than 2,300 teeth from 171 individuals.”
– Phys.org

What did they find? In shocking news over 60% of these Vikings had bad teeth and dental decay problems. Who would have thought! I mean most of us assumed that these Vikings would have eaten less sugar in their diet. Surely, all that blood thirsty activity would have kept them in good stead. My own speculation on this matter would posit that those lengthy sea crossing journeys by long boats in cramped conditions would have played havoc on their health. Perhaps, their teeth suffered from a poor diet and physically demanding rowing on benches with salt water in the air. Obviously dental care was not high on their list of priorities when gold and silver plate in those monasteries was up for grabs at the stroke of a bloodied axe.

“The authors add, “In a Swedish Viking population, around half of the individuals suffered from dental caries. The Vikings performed both tooth filing, tooth picking, and other dental treatment, including attempts to treat dental infections.” “
– Bertilsson C, Vretemark M, Lund H, Lingström P. Caries prevalence and other dental pathological conditions in Vikings from Varnhem, Sweden, PLOS ONE (2023). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0295282

A bunch of mainly Scandinavian blokes, with the odd female Viking thrown in for spice, crammed together in close proximity on a longish narrow wooden craft not really well designed for ocean crossings over rough seas – it must have been real hell at times. Usually, a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables was prevalent on lengthy sea journeys and this can produce bad bacteria in the mouths of mariners. You get wobbly teeth and gum disease. Dried and salted meat and fish would be the mainstay of their on-board diet. Washed down with beer, sour milk, and water. Not a lot of Vitamin C anywhere to be seen in this fare. You know the old story about macho blokes not eating their veg. Imagine the bowel issues with constipation and or diarrhoea en masse. The stink of unwashed bodies and foul guts – it would make Berserkers of many of us.

Mead Maybe The Culprit Behind Viking Cavities

Could mead be the culprit for Viking cavities, as this sweet alcoholic brew can melt even the most tart of us. Mead is made from honey and Vikings are famous for overindulging in anything alcoholic and especially mead. Valhalla was imagined as a big ‘p*ss up’ in a great hall in Viking heaven. The Viking meaning of life centred around courageous acts in battle followed by lengthy p*ss ups where stories were shared about these acts via a Skald – a composer and reciter of poems about heroic Vikings. Old Norse would ring out within the drinking hall and the Vikings would listen and drink with equal fervour to the tales brought to life with rhythm and rhyme. Minstrel poets were the mediums for this celebration of Norse Viking culture.

“Honey is primarily composed of sugars, and honey has an acidic pH. On the face of it then, honey has the potential to damage your teeth. Certainly, some dentists refer to honey as one of the food items that can cause tooth decay. However, other dentists refer to its benefits when used for orthodontic procedures.”
– Buzz About Bees

Most probably it was the excessive intake of alcohol that did the dental damage rather than the sugar content of the mead alone.

Poor diet awash in ale, beer, and mead makes mouths and gums the perfect breeding ground for bad bacteria and then tooth decay.

“Among Viking children, they couldn’t locate a single cavity, a far cry from today, where even in Sweden—which Bertilsson calls “one of the countries in the world with the best dental health” — roughly 20 percent of 6-year-olds have already developed a cavity.”
– History.com

Viking kids had perfect teeth and I suspect that they did not hit the booze as much as their parents. Drinking alcohol was a huge part of medieval lives and many folk drank small beer for breakfast. I would posit that excessive drinking negatively impacted the lives of many of those in the Viking male orbit. Domestic violence committed on wives and household slaves would have been another common occurrence. We still see this happening today in Australian culture minus the slaves, with wives and girlfriends bearing the brunt of the male violence amplified by excessive alcohol intake. Losing a few teeth can happen in many ways.
Violence was a big part of the Berserker identity and for Vikings more generally. If you were going to travel vast distances over dangerous expanses of water you wouldn’t want to get your ar*e whipped by the first bunch of farmers or monks you met. Scary appearances had to be backed up by battle skills and bravery.

“The etymology of the word berserk comes from the Old Norse berserkr, which means “raging warrior of superhuman strength.” The term is a combination of the words for ‘bear’ or ‘bare’ (which of these it is specifically, is up for debate), and ‘shirt’ or ‘coat’ (serkr), and in the words of 9th-century poet Þorbjörn Hornklofi, “The Berserkers howled [and] gods were in their minds.” “
– Madison Margolin, March 2, 2022, Netflix Tudum

Henbane, booze, and cannabis are in the firing line as likely drugs for our starkers Berserker to load up on pre-battle. However, mentally shifting into a God-filled trance state was the main consciousness raising approach taken by these warriors. Fighting naked has a rich tradition among the ancient Greeks and the Celts with that blue woad. It seems counter-intuitive when you think of knights in their heavy steel body armour but it takes all sorts, as my late grandmother used to say.

A few bothersome bad teeth and finally getting out of that sodden wooden boat might have lifted the spirits of our Berserkers too. Their filed-down teeth and colourful tattoos would have put the fear of God into the poor old monks in the monastery. I always thought it was a bad move for these Christian orders to have invested in gold and silver plate, when they were supposedly espousing the divine nature of their God – materialism always has its costs in the ultimate reckoning of things.